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SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION 

WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES 

NUMBER THIRTEEN 



ALASKA: AMERICA'S CONTINENTAL 
FRONTIER OUTPOST 



By 
ERNEST P. WALKER 









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(Publication 3733) 



CITY OF WASHINGTON 

PUBLISHED BY THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION 

JULY 8, 1943 



<£f>e £ox$ (§aithnott (Preee 

BALTIMORE, MD., U. S. A. 



CONTENTS 

Page 

Strategic importance 1 

Geography, topography, and climate 4 

General discussion 4 

Southeastern region 11 

South-central region 12 

Southwestern region 14 

The Aleutian Islands 15 

Bering Sea region 16 

Arctic region 18 

Interior region 20 

Native peoples 22 

Origin 22 

Indians of Southeastern Alaska 23 

Aleuts 25 

Eskimos 26 

Interior Athapascans 27 

History 27 

Natural resources 34 

Animal life 34 

Fish and shellfish 34 

Aquatic mammals . '. 38 

Land fur bearers 41 

Game mammals 42 

Birds 44 

Timber 45 

Agricultural possibilities 46 

Minerals, oil, water power 47 

Development 49 

Government 49 

Education and social life 50 

Transportation and communication 51 

Concluding remarks 53 

Bibliography 54 

ILLUSTRATIONS 

PLATES 

Page 

1. Mount McKinley 1 

2. Upper, Norris and Taku Glaciers 8 

Lower, A small portion of Columbia Glacier 8 

3. Douglas ski valley near Juneau 8 

4. Upper, Midnight view of Cordova and adjacent mountains in June 8 

Lower, Street scene, Anchorage 8 

iii 



IV ILLUSTRATIONS 

Page 

5. Upper, Village of Kiska 8 

Lower, Baseball game between crew of United States Coast Guard vessel 

and cadets from Japanese Naval Training Ship 8 

6. View across Bering Strait 16 

7. Upper, Course of the sun, Fairbanks, December 24, 1935 16 

Lower, Potato field and forest in interior near Fairbanks 16 

8. Upper, Southeastern Alaska native making miniature totem pole 16 

Lower, Native children in school at Hoonah 16 

9. Upper, Aleut women at entrance to their barabara 16 

Lower, Eskimo children on Nunivak Island 16 

10. Left, Totem pole at Saxman 24 

Right, Point Hope Eskimo woman 24 

11. Upper, Umiaks towing a dead whale- 24 

Lower, Eskimos and kyaks at Nunivak Island 24 

12. Upper, "Brailing," or removing salmon from a fish trap 24 

Lower, Typical salmon cannery scene in Southeastern Alaska 24 

13. Upper, King crab 24 

Lower, Digging razor clams along the Gulf of Alaska 24 

14. Upper, Fur seals on St. Paul Island 32 

Lower, Murres on Walrus Island 32 

15. Upper, Dall mountain sheep rams 32 

Lower, Caribou swimming Yukon River 32 

16. Left, Marten 32 

Right, Blue foxes at kitchen door of blue fox farm 32 

17. Upper, Musk oxen 32 

Lower, Big brown bear fishing for salmon 32 

18. Upper, Forest in Southeastern Alaska 40 

Lower, Sawmill at Ketchikan 40 

19- Upper, Trout fishing in typical salmon stream of Southeastern Alaska. ... 40 

Lower, Aerial view of Kootznahoo Inlet, Admiralty Island 40 

20. Left, Cutting a Sitka spruce in Southeastern Alaska 40 

Right, Clearing right-of-way for Alaska highway 40 

21. Upper, Panning for gold 40 

Lower, Hydraulic placer gold mining near Fairbanks 40 

TEXT FIGURES 

Page 

1 . Map of Alaska 3 

2. Map of Alaska superimposed on map of the United States 6 



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ALASKA: AMERICA'S CONTINENTAL FRONTIER 
OUTPOST 

By ERNEST P. WALKER 

Assistant Director, National Zoological Park 

Smithsonian Institution 

(With 21 Plates) 

STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE 

Alaska's location at the extreme northwest of the American continent 
and its close proximity to Asia make it of prime importance in the second 
world war, just as it has been an important step in migrations between 
Asia and North America for ages past. 

While Alaska and Asia are now separated by Bering Strait and Bering 
Sea, they are not in the eyes of geologists separated at all, as those water 
areas are merely part of a large continental shelf or land body only 
slightly submerged at the present time. At the narrowest point the strait 
is only 56 miles wide, with two islands, Big and Little Diomede, near the 
middle of the channel. Bering Sea is deep in its southern portion, but 
much of the narrower northern portion is less than 180 feet deep. At its 
southern end the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands extend far 
to the west toward the Asiatic coast. 

Attu, the most westerly of the Aleutian Islands, is only 180 miles from 
the Commander Islands, 380 miles from Kamchatka, 696 miles from 
Chishimo Netto, the most northerly of the Japanese Kurile Islands, and 
716 miles from Paramushiro Island, a Japanese island on which is situated 
a great naval base. While the islands of the Aleutian chain are of little 
importance from the standpoint of food production, minerals, or manu- 
facturing, and have only a sparse human population, they have great 
potential significance as bases for military movements, as stepping stones 
eastward to the mainland, and as bases for submarines to operate in the 
north Pacific Ocean. The Aleutians are on the shortest route from Seattle 
to Japan and other important points on the east coast of Asia. 

In the entire 1,000 miles of the Aleutian Islands, there are only four 
harbors for fair-sized vessels. These are at Akun Island, immediately 
west of Unimak Pass in the easterly end of the chain; Dutch Harbor, at 
Unalaska Island; at Adak Island; and at Kiska Island. An enemy holding 

Plate 1 

Mount McKinley, elevation 20,300 feet, as viewed across Wonder Lake. Photo- 
graph by Sackman, Courtesy U. S. Department of the Interior. 

1 



2 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

all these harbors could effectively close Bering Sea to us and dominate 
the northern portion of the Pacific Ocean, the southern coast line of 
Alaska, and the western coast of British Columbia, and be a constant 
menace to such cities as Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, and even as far south 
as San Francisco. The Japanese seizure of Attu and Kiska, and the sub- 
sequent retaking of Attu by our forces, indicate the great importance of 
these island outposts. The shore line of most of the remainder of the chain 
is abrupt and forbidding, without good harbors, in a region of much fog. 

While the Alaska Peninsula is rugged, there are several harbors along 
its southern shore, as well as in the Shumagin Island group a short way 
south of the Peninsula, that are fairly well suited for naval activities, 
either offensive or defensive. If the Alaska Peninsula or Bristol Bay 
region were to fall into the hands of the enemy, he would have an ex- 
cellent point from which to strike eastward at other still more important 
points in Alaska. The Kodiak-Afognak Island group has been recognized 
by our fighting forces as being of great importance. Should an enemy 
gain a foothold at Kodiak, or any other place along this southwestern 
Alaska region, not only could he prevent us from utilizing the important 
food resources of the salmon, halibut, and codfish, but he would be in an 
excellent position to strike eastward and to paralyze shipping from west- 
ern, central, and interior Alaska to the States and to British Columbia, 
which would cut us off from all the resources of the Territory other than 
those that might be transported over the new Alaska highway, or through 
the inside passage along the coast of British Columbia. All three ocean 
termini of the Alaska Railroad, Seward, Anchorage, and Whittier, would 
be menaced from an enemy base at Kodiak, and an invasion of the Ter- 
ritory by way of the Alaska Railroad or the Richardson Highway from 
Valdez would be comparatively easy. With these points under control, 
a conquest of interior Alaska would be entirely feasible, and northern 
Canada would be threatened. Land-based planes at Kodiak could menace 
the entire Archipelago region, comprising Southeastern Alaska and 
British Columbia, and the cities of our Pacific coast as far south as Port- 
land, Oreg. On the other hand, this coast line offers great advantages for 
defense if we should ever be so unfortunate as to be compelled to defend 
the area against direct attack, for the innumerable bays and channels, with 
many excellent harbors and relatively narrow entrances to the channels, 
permit of surprise attacks on enemy vessels that might approach the coast. 
Indeed, large vessels need not be used to defend the region, for small 
vessels and seaplanes or land-based planes could hold it against much 
greater forces. 

A few years back an Alaska base was recognized as one essential point 
of a triangle controlling the eastern Pacific, the other two points being a 




Fig. 1.— Map of Alaska. Copyright National Geographic Society. Reproduced by permission. 






ALASKA — WALKER 3 

base on the Pacific coast of the United States and a base at the Hawaiian 
Islands. The Honorable Anthony J. Dimond, Delegate to Congress from 
Alaska, has clearly shown in his article, "The Strategic Value of Alaska," 
that the Territory is probably of greater value as a base for the protection 
of the Pacific coast of the United States than is Hawaii, and fleets based 
in Alaska could give better protection to the Hawaiian Islands than fleets 
operating from our bases on the west coast of the United States. 

The interest of the Japanese in Alaska is not of recent origin and has 
been well known to Alaskans for many years. During the writer's 12^ 
years in the Territory he found that one of the regular subjects of con- 
versation, particularly in southwestern Alaska, was the report of Alaskans 
having found evidence of Japanese landings on uninhabited islands. 
Sometimes camps were found littered with empty Japanese food cans, 
or strange ships, obviously Japanese, were sighted at a distance. On one 
occasion, the writer, when on fisheries patrol work for the United States 
Bureau of Fisheries, traveling on a small vessel owned and operated by 
the Bureau, observed that the Japanese cook was exceptionally studious 
and intelligent, and upon engaging him in conversation found that he 
was a member of the Japanese Naval Reserve. 

From 1936 to 1940, Alaska fishermen were voicing vigorous protests 
that Japanese fishing vessels in Bering Sea and Bristol Bay were actually 
encroaching on territorial waters, taking halibut, cod, salmon, and crabs. 
By such activities, they were not only taking some fish that spawned in 
Alaska streams, and crabs, but they were becoming thoroughly familiar 
with our coast line, facilities, and improvements. Incidentally, a large 
portion of the canned crab meat that came to us from the Japanese had 
been caught very close to our coast, perhaps even within our territorial 
waters. 

The immediate hazard of attack and landings farther north along the 
Bering Sea and Arctic coast from Siberia is of course remote but has 
been in the minds of Alaskans for many years, particularly with the de- 
velopment of aviation, for an enemy in Siberia would have a comparatively 
short jump to great expanses of relatively level terrain of northwestern 
and interior Alaska. Landings could be made along the Bering Sea coast 
from surface vessels, and planes would have no difficulty in landing on the 
innumerable lakes and waterways of the interior region. In winter the 
snow surface would provide excellent landing fields in many places for 
planes equipped with skis. Indeed, during recent years there has been 
extensive travel over practically all the interior region by means of ski- 
equipped planes. 

Forthcoming weather conditions in the United States and Canada in 
many instances can be forecast rather accurately if the conditions in 



4 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

Alaska are known. Therefore, the United States Government has estab- 
lished weather observation and reporting stations in the Territory. These 
are of great value to the remainder of North America for both commer- 
cial and military purposes, and if Alaska were in the hands of an enemy, 
he would withhold valuable weather data and could plan his attacks on 
us for periods of weather unfavorable to us. 

Without disclosing information that would be useful to the enemy, 
it can safely be said that Alaska's proximity to Asia makes it an invaluable 
base from which to conduct our_own offensive operations. 

GEOGRAPHY, TOPOGRAPHY, AND CLIMATE 
GENERAL DISCUSSION 

The best way to visualize the size and vast extent of Alaska is to super- 
impose a map of the Territory on a map of the United States of the 
same scale (fig. 2). It is as far from the southern portion of South- 
eastern Alaska to the tip of the Aleutian Islands as it is from Charleston, 
S. C, to Los Angeles, Calif. From Point Barrow, the most northern por- 
tion of the Territory, to Prince William Sound on the south, is as far as 
from the United States-Canadian border to Oklahoma. The area of Alaska 
is about one-fifth that of the United States. In this vast region there are 
wide differences in topography and climate, and conditions are so varied 
that no simple description of the Territory is adequate. Generalities are 
almost certain to be incorrect or meaningless. 

Cape Prince of Wales, the most westerly point of the mainland of North 
America, projects westward beyond the 168th meridian. It is therefore 
more than 400 miles west of Honolulu. Attu Island, the most westerly 
of the Aleutians, is almost due north of New Zealand and the Gilbert 
and Marshall Islands groups of the South Pacific. 

According to recent calculations by the United States Coast and Geodetic 
Survey, the coast line of Alaska is 33,904 miles in length, of which about 
60 percent is in the Alexander Archipelago region, known generally as 
Southeastern Alaska. The entire tidewater coast line of the United States 
is 53,413 miles. Distances between points in Alaska are shown in Table 1. 

The mountains of Alaska are in general northward extensions of the 
mountain ranges farther south in North America. The Brooks Range, 
including the Endicott Mountains, is considered by some geologists to be 
a continuation of the Rocky Mountains, while others think it may form 
part of an Arctic series. These mountains divide the interior from the 
Arctic slope. The Alaska Range with the St. Elias Range, somewhat out 
of line, form a continuation of the Cascade chain, which is best known 



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WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 




ALASKA — WALKER 7 

through northern California, Oregon, and Washington. These mountains 
swing westward and southwestward in Alaska, and, according to some 
geologists, continue as the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands, and 
far to the west reappear as the Japanese Islands off the Asiatic coast. 
Other geologists consider that the mountains of the Alaska Peninsula and 
the Aleutians constitute a distinct series. The coast range of Alaska, which 
provides so much of the beauty of the country as seen from salt water, 
swings westward along the coast and dips beneath the ocean. 

As one goes northward along the coast, the mountains gradually become 
higher and are closer to the water. The timber line gradually be- 
comes lower and the vegetation slightly less luxuriant and dense, with 
some species dropping out entirely. But Southeastern and South-cen- 
tral Alaska are in general similar to the Puget Sound region of the 
State of Washington. 

As a rule, when rugged mountains are adjacent to the sea, the ocean 
bottom is equally rugged, with deep submarine valleys and abrupt peaks, 
some of which appear as islands or rocks, while others may not be quite 
exposed, and thus constitute a menace to navigation. Where the seacoast 
is very level and rises only gently from the ocean, the adjoining ocean bed 
is generally shallow. These general rules hold along the Alaska coast. 
For example, there is a great submarine valley known as the Aleutian 
Deep from 60 to 70 miles south of the Aleutian Islands, and roughly 
parallel to this chain, in which there are depths of as much as 24,000 feet. 

The climate of the Alaska coast, like that of other regions, is modified 
by the adjoining oceans and prevailing air currents. Bering Sea, im- 
mediately north of the Alaska Peninsula and the narrow Aleutian chain, 
is a cold body of water with extensive ice floes in the winter and much 
fog, rain,. wind, and violent storms at all seasons. The climate of those 
portions of Alaska adjoining this and the Arctic Ocean is thus very 
different from that of the southern coast. The relatively warm waters of 
the Pacific Ocean adjacent to the Pacific coast of the United States, British 
Columbia, and Alaska, and the warm, moisture-laden subtropic mass of air 
that drifts northwesterly onto these lands, together produce the peculiar 
climate characteristic of the regions. The low-lying light fogs that pre- 
vail in the Aleutians during the spring and summer result from the chill- 
ing of the warm air of the Pacific by the mountains of the Aleutians and 
the cold water of the Bering Sea region. These contrasting conditions also 
cause many of the gales. The southern portion of the mainland coast of 
Alaska receives its heavy precipitation through the chilling of the warm, 
moisture-laden air by the high mountains near the coast. 



8 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

There is a widespread popular belief that the so-called Japan or 
Kuroshio current is an important factor in modifying the climate of 
Alaska. This is an error, as investigations have disclosed the fact that 
there is no definite current as far eastward in the North Pacific as Alaska, 
and that the waters that move easterly in rather irregular shallow bands 
are not of sufficient volume or high enough in temperature to be of much 
importance in modifying the climate of the Pacific coast of North 
America. The idea that there is a" definite Japan current along the 
Alaska coast can probably be traced to the wind-driven eastward surface 
movement, which deposits on certain parts of the Alaska coast drift ma- 
terial that originates in the Asiatic region. 

The Kodiak region is sufficiently separated from the mainland and 
the Bering Sea that its climate is not so seriously chilled by the cold waters 
and ice of the north. On the other hand, it is definitely warmed by the 
Pacific waters, and the temperatures are maintained within a fairly mod- 
erate range. On the mainland back from the coast these effects are less 
noticeable, but the heavy precipitation continues to the summits of the 
high mountains. This produces the glaciers and the abundance of streams. 

Table 2 gives the temperature and rainfall conditions at important 
points in the various regions of the Territory. 

Tides vary greatly along the Alaska coast. In Turn-again-arm, near 
Anchorage, occur tides with extremes of rise and fall of 42 feet, second 
only to those in the Bay of Fundy. The water comes and goes so rapidly 
that there is sometimes a "bore" or wall of water in the "Arm." At the 
heads of some of the long inlets in Southeastern Alaska there are extremes 
between high and low tide of as much as 23 feet. Along most of the 
outer coast of this region and the outer southern coast, the extremes of the 
tides are about 15 feet; in the Aleutians they are only about 6 feet, are 
very irregular, and often occur only once a day. Along the Bering Sea 
coast tides are of very irregular occurrence and range, the maximum 
being about 9 feet, except at the heads of some of the bays, where they 
may be greater. The Arctic Ocean is at times without tides; at other 
times it has a rise and fall of only a few inches, but over a period of 
months undergoes changes of levels caused mainly by winds. 

In the rugged regions with narrow, tortuous channels, rocks and reefs, 
navigators must know their exact position at all times. To aid them the 
United States Government has placed a few lighthouses and many small 
lights commonly known as blinkers on prominent points. These blinkers 
operate both day and night, and though the flame is so small — only about 
the size of a match — that they can scarcely be detected in the daytime, at 
night they are visible for many miles. There are various other aids to 







Plate 2 

Upper: Norris Glacier on the left, which does not reach salt water, and Taku Glacier on the right, 
which discharges into salt water, and a portion of the mountainous region easterly from Juneau in 
which these glaciers head and flow down valleys like streams of water. Courtesy U. S. Forest Service. 

Lower: A small portion of Columbia Glacier forms a background for the passenger steamer New 
Aleutian. Photograph by Robert F. Griggs, courtesy National Geographic Society. 








■■•$$% 




.... . .. . 



Plate 4 
Upper: Midnight view of Cordova and adjacent mountains in June. 
Lower: Street scene, Anchorage. 

Courtesy Division of Territories and Island Possessions, U. S. Department of the Interior. 





Plate 5 
Attu on Attu 

Upper: The village of ^"•^■^ ^n ft'icL-^ Tdonrl Aleutian Island group. 

Lower: Baseball game between crew of United States Coast Guard vessel and cadets from Japanese 
Naval Training Ship at Unalaska, July 1937. 

Courtesy U. S. Department of the Interior. 




* 



ALASKA — WALKER 



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10 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

navigation, and the Coast and Geodetic Survey is constantly working on 
the surveying of the navigable waters of the region, so that eventually 
accurate charts will be available for all coastal areas of the Territory. 

In the interior, Arctic, and Alaska Peninsula regions, the large treeless 
areas are known as "tundra." They are level or rolling plains, often 
rocky, carpeted with low-growing vegetation, but the plants making up 
the carpet may vary widely in the various regions. In some sections it 
is composed of small shrubs, perennials, and annual plants, including 
grasses that grow almost knee-high. In other sections it consists mainly 
of grasses and grasslike plants and other small herbaceous vegetation, but 
the small shrubs are lacking. "Reindeer moss" (lichen) is included in 
varying quantities in almost all types of vegetation. In some areas it is 
the principal plant, or at least occupies a considerable portion of the 
area, with other small plants interspersed with it. The large river flats, 
particularly the Yukon and Kuskokwim, have extensive growths of coarse 
grass and grasslike plants and small willows. Strictly speaking, these 
areas are not tundra, but are frequently so called. Another type of tree- 
less region fairly common on the Alaska Peninsula and elsewhere, known 
as "niggerhead," is composed of tussocks of grass, the main solid mass of 
which may stand a foot or even 18 inches above the surrounding barren 
ground. The effect when viewed from a distance is of a slightly rough 
plain carpeted with grass, but it is exceedingly difficult to walk over. 

All portions of Alaska are sufficiently far north that the long days in 
summer with short nights, and the long nights and short days in winter, 
are definitely noticeable and constitute one of the attractions of the region. 
Even along the southern coastal region the nights do not become really 
dark in midsummer, and bird calls are heard all night long. In winter the 
reverse is true: the hours of daylight are few, and the nights are long. 
The farther north one goes, of course, the longer are the hours of daylight 
in summer and the shorter the hours of sunlight in winter. 

South of the Arctic Circle in summer the sun is not continuously in 
view, but appears to rise well to the north of east, circle across the sky 
in an arc little short of a circle, and set well to the north of west. In 
winter, when the earth is tilted in the opposite direction the sun rises far 
to the south of east, and after a short appearance sets far to the south 
of west, making a very low arc in the sky, and within the Arctic Circle it 
is, of course, not to be seen at all for a short period, varying with the 
latitude. 

The midnight Fourth of July baseball game at Fairbanks has become an 
important event, and the novelty of a game outdoors at midnight without 
artificial light draws many visitors. 



ALASKA — WALKER 1 1 

Standard time in Southeastern Alaska, except near Ketchikan, is of the 
135th meridian, or 1 hour behind that of Seattle, and 4 hours behind 
that of Eastern Standard time. The main body of Alaska is another hour 
later, or 5 hours behind Eastern Standard time. The Aleutian Islands 
are another hour later, or 6 hours behind Eastern Standard time. The west 
end of the chain, which projects beyond the 180th meridian, would be 1 
day ahead of the remainder of the Western Hemisphere were it not for 
the fact that the international date line was drawn around the end of 
the chain in order not to cut through the island group. 

Summertime is a period of great activity on the part of both animals 
and plants. Man employs the daylight hours to the utmost to accomplish 
whatever he may be engaged upon, and the animals multiply and fatten 
in preparation for the winter to come. Plant life grows with extreme 
rapidity during the long days and generally warm climate of summer. In 
winter many of the activities conducted by man are necessarily greatly 
reduced, giving time for relaxation and the enjoyment of social contacts. 
Some of the animals hibernate and thus pass the long winter without 
effort. Others greatly reduce their activities and take shelter when possible 
during bad weather. 

In the interior, mosquitoes are a serious pest during the summer months. 
The person who originated the saying that "the only way to have more 
mosquitoes in Alaska would be to grow smaller ones," pointed out one 
of the most objectionable features of the Territory. Fortunately, however, 
their season is short, and by the use of nets and gloves it is possible to 
prevent much discomfort. 

SOUTHEASTERN REGION 

Southeastern Alaska comprises a strip of mainland approximately 30 
miles wide and about 350 miles long, with a few large islands and a great 
many small islands, rocks, and reefs adjacent to the southern two-thirds of 
the area. It is the continuance of the coast range of British Columbia and 
the Olympic Mountains of the State of Washington. The partial sub- 
mergence of this portion of the coast range accounts for the maze of 
islands, channels, long inlets, and fjords that give the region its many 
protected harbors as well as much of its beauty. The coast line of this 
entire region, including the mainland, islands, and fjords, measures more 
than 18,000 miles in length. 

Southeastern Alaska boasts a very equable climate. Along the outer coast 
the temperature rarely, and in some portions never, reaches zero, and for 
considerable periods in the winter remains above freezing. The summers 
are relatively cool, a temperature of 90° being extremely rare. It is a 



12 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

region of excessive precipitation, the remark being made that February 
is the month of least rainfall because there are only 28 days on which it 
can rain. Even in winter snow is lacking at sea level over much of the 
area. Rain will fall at the lower levels simultaneously with snow at the 
higher elevations. Despite the heavy rainfall it is a delightful region in 
which to live, for the atmosphere is washed clean and the foliage has a 
brilliance not found in many regions. The vegetation here is abundant, 
culminating in the giant Sitka spruce that towers to a height of more 
than 200 feet and sometimes exceeds 14 feet in diameter. Timber line 
varies from about 3,500 feet on some of the outer coastal islands to less 
than 1,000 feet at Skagway, and majestic snow-clad mountain peaks are 
visible from almost any location in the region. Peaks on the islands range 
from 3,000 to 5,000 feet, and many on the adjacent mainland reach 5,000 
to 7,000 feet, with a few even higher. The myriad islands and maze of 
channels in this region provide many harbors and protected channels for 
boats both large and small. In normal times it is an ideal recreational 
region, particularly from the middle of May until the middle of July, 
when there is relatively little rain and periods of several days are fre- 
quently enjoyed without rain. 

In the northerly portion of Southeastern Alaska are encountered the 
first glaciers that reach salt water. These rivers of ice originate in the 
snow fields among the mountain peaks and flow down to the ocean. 
Where they discharge into salt water they often terminate in abrupt cliff 
faces sometimes more than 200 feet in height above water and extend 
even farther below water; the width of the faces ranges from half a mile 
to 3 or 4 miles. 

A scenic feature of this region is the Fairweather Range, which rises 
practically from salt water to elevations of as much as 15,900 feet. Peaks 
of less than 10,000 feet are so numerous as not to be conspicuous. This 
range extends along the northeasterly portion of the Gulf of Alaska from 
Glacier Bay to Yakutat. 

Besides the towns of Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, Haines, 
Skagway, Sitka, and Craig, Southeastern Alaska has many sizable native 
villages and numerous fishing and fish-packing communities that are 
populous at certain seasons. The principal activities of the region are the 
salmon, herring, halibut, and shrimp fisheries, logging, mining of gold 
and other minerals, quarrying, and fur farming. 

SOUTH-CENTRAL REGION 

The region from Yakutat to Cook Inlet and inland to the summit of 
the Alaska Range, usually designated South-central Alaska, is not very 
different from the Southeastern region. 



ALASKA — WALKER 13 

Westerly from Yakutat the coast line is relatively regular, and a short 
way inland rises the St. Elias Range, a jumbled mountain mass culmi- 
nating in the 19,850-foot peak, Mount Logan, in Canada. The front of 
the Malaspina Glacier, one of the largest remnants of the ice cap of the 
glacial period, extends for 80 miles along the coast. This glacier now 
barely reaches salt water at Icy Bay and Sitkagi Bluffs, but only a few 
years ago it actively discharged icebergs. Sitkagi Bluffs is a cliff of ice 4 
miles long at the ocean beach. Small vegetation is luxuriant, but the timber 
is greatly reduced in area and size, as the close proximity of the St. Elias 
Range and the extent of the ice-covered area make conditions unfavorable 
for large trees. Farther westward the most conspicuous portion of the 
shore line is Cape St. Elias, with Mount St. Elias towering upward 18,008 
feet a short distance inland. Westerly from there is the Controller Bay 
region, and the village of Katalla. This area, the general locale of Rex 
Beach's "The Iron Trail," contains coal deposits and formerly had some 
small oil wells. Farther west lie the Copper River Flats, about 40 miles 
wide, through which the Copper River drains. Up this river run untold 
numbers of salmon, including the highly prized red salmon. Immediately 
west of the Copper River Flats is Prince William Sound surrounded by 
majestic mountains and glaciers. On the shores of the Sound are the 
towns of Cordova and Valdez, and a new town, Whittier, is developing 
on the west side as a new terminus of the Alaska Railroad. In this region 
spruce and hemlock grow up to timber line, which ranges from about 
1,200 to 1,500 feet. Several large, active glaciers discharge icebergs 
into salt water. 

Westward from Prince William Sound the Kenai Peninsula juts into the 
Gulf of Alaska. The peninsula is a rugged, mountainous region, well tim- 
bered in the lower altitudes, with considerable rainfall but less than 
farther eastward. Seward and Anchorage are both ocean termini of the 
Alaska Railroad, which north of Anchorage starts its climb of the Alaska 
Range into the interior, crossing the Range at Broad Pass at the surpris- 
ingly low elevation of 2,200 feet. 

Not far from Anchorage, near the head of Cook Inlet, lies the much 
publicized Matanuska Valley, where a few years ago families from 
Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were settled. Here many crops in- 
cluding wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, turnips, carrots, rutabagas, cabbage, 
cauliflower, celery, parsnips, beets, and hay do fairly well, and some of 
these produce exceptionally good yields. Cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens, 
and turkeys are also raised in the region. 

In the Alaska and St. Elias Ranges many peaks attain an elevation of 
more than 14,000 feet. Chief among them is famous Mount McKinley, 

3 



14 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

which towers to 20,300 feet, the highest mountain in North America. 
Some of the mountains in this region are mildly active volcanoes. 

The principal towns of this area include Cordova, Valdez, Seward, 
Seldovia, Anchorage, Colonists, and Chitina, and there are many smaller 
settlements and native villages. Salmon, crab, and clam packing, mining, 
logging, fur farming, and to a lesser extent agriculture are the outstanding 
activities of this region. 

SOUTHWESTERN REGION 

As commonly used in the Territory, the term "Southwestern Alaska" in- 
cludes the Alaska Peninsula, the Kodiak-Afognak Island group, and the 
Aleutian Islands, but to give greater emphasis to the Aleutians in this 
paper they are treated separately. 

On the Alaska Peninsula, are a number of rather recently active vol- 
canoes, including Mount Katmai, which erupted with great force in 1912. 
The clouds that frequently hang over Katmai and other volcanoes, as well 
as over the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, when illuminated at night 
by the red glow from the volcanoes, produce weird and beautiful effects 
visible for many miles. Some of the clouds are composed of steam escaping 
from the volcanoes. 

At its eastern end the Alaska Peninsula has a few scattered areas of 
moderate-sized trees, but in traversing the 500 miles westward to the tip 
of the Peninsula one soon passes the smallest of the trees and encounters 
nothing larger than alders growing in the more protected ravines. A 
luxuriant growth of grass and small shrubs covers the slopes. As the 
Peninsula progresses westward, it becomes narrower, the land is less jagged 
in outline, and the volcanoes stand out clearly. The Peninsula is subject 
to heavy gales, cold from the Bering Sea to the north and warmer from 
the Pacific Ocean on the south. 

To the south of the Peninsula is the Kodiak-Afognak Island group, 
about 160 miles in length. The highest of the mountains on these islands 
rises 4,463 feet above the sea. Afognak is fairly well timbered with spruce, 
and the northeasterly end of Kodiak as far as the village of Kodiak has a 
growth of young trees. Westward from Kodiak the only trees are a few 
deciduous ones in the more protected locations in the stream valleys. The 
town of Kodiak was one of the important Russian headquarters, and since 
its establishment in about 1792 has been prominent in the history of 
western Alaska. The 1940 census of Kodiak disclosed a population of 
855 natives and whites. 

Kodiak has a pleasant climate, the temperature rarely dropping below 
zero in winter and ranging from 40° to 80° F. in summer. The soil is 



ALASKA — WALKER 15 

good, and crops can be successfully raised. On the north side of the 
island is the Karluk River, one of the famous red -salmon streams from 
which untold quantities of salmon have been taken, even to the point 
of threatening at one time the existence of the salmon run. 

Besides the towns of Kodiak and Afognak there are smaller native 
villages and fish-packing localities. Old Kodiak, first Russian settlement 
in Alaska, was established in 1784, at Three Saints Bay not far from the 
present town of Kodiak, but has been abandoned for many years. 

THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS 

The Aleutian Islands, which have been so much in the news since the 
beginning of the war, are a partially submerged extension of the chain 
of volcanic mountains that form the Alaska Peninsula and extend west- 
ward beyond the tip of the Peninsula for 1,000 miles to Attu Island, the 
most westerly bit of land of the North American group. These islands 
vary in size from Unimak, the most easterly, which is about 70 miles 
in length by 20 miles in width, to mere rocks and reefs. Attu, only 35 
by 20 miles, has mountains 3,000 feet high. 

Many of these rugged islands rise from the water as sheer cliffs and 
rear upward to peaks, the highest reaching an elevation of 9,387 feet. 
Landing on many of these islands is next to impossible, and only four 
harbors in the entire chain can accommodate fairly large vessels. A few 
other bays will furnish shelter for small vessels in bad weather, but cannot 
be called good harbors. Very strong currents run through the Aleutian 
passes, but the rise and fall of the tides is slight, averaging only about 
3.6 feet. 

The climate of the Aleutians differs considerably from that of any 
other part of Alaska. Fog or low-hanging clouds almost constantly shroud 
the islands, and strong winds and gales blow out of Bering Sea in winter. 
Sudden and violent storms occur frequently. The temperature is rather 
uniformly low with a small daily and annual range, the lowest recorded 
temperature being 5° F., the highest 70°. The January mean is 31.6°, 
the August mean 51.4°. 

No trees grow naturally on the Aleutians, but a clump of 13 spruces 
planted at Dutch Harbor in 1805 are now about 25 feet high. Wherever 
there is enough soil to afford a foothold a good growth of grasses and 
grasslike plants has become established. The beach rye that grows on the 
westerly islands of the chain is used by the Aleut natives in making their 
very fine baskets. 

The Aleutians do not offer a promising field for commercial develop- 
ment. There are no indications that it would be profitable to try to 



16 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

carry on fishing operations with these islands as bases, and no important 
minerals are known to occur on the chain, except for one sulfur deposit 
which was worked to a small degree a number of years ago. At Akutan 
Island a whaling company established headquarters and hunted whales in 
the adjacent North Pacific and Bering Sea waters, but this closed some 
years ago owing to unprofitable operations. Sheep introduced on some of 
the islands are doing well, and sheep raising is perhaps the most promising 
potential industry for the region, in addition to the raising of blue foxes, 
which thrive on the majority of the islands on which they have been intro- 
duced. Sea otters, which formerly abounded along this coast but were 
almost exterminated through excessive hunting, are now increasing and 
should eventually become a source of revenue. 

Myriads of sea birds frequent the islands, making it one of the great 
rookeries of the world. The most abundant species are murres, auklets, 
puffins, cormorants, gulls, kittiwakes, and guillemots. In addition to the 
birds that nest on «the islands, great flocks of shearwaters that nest on 
South Pacific islands come to the Aleutians during the South Pacific winter. 

Native Aleut villages exist on Akutan, Atka, Attu, Umnak, Unimak, 
and on Unalaska and nearby islands. It is doubtful that any of the natives 
on Attu have survived the Japanese occupation. Because of the favorable 
location Dutch Harbor and the village of Unalaska were developed and 
utilized by the Russians and have since been further developed by the 
United States. From the days of the Russians Unalaska has been the 
metropolis of the Aleutians. 

About 60 miles westerly from Unalaska is an island now known as 
Bogoslof, but referred to in the early historical accounts of southern 
Bering Sea as Sail Rock or Ship Rock, because the shape of the rock then 
projecting above water suggested a ship's sail. Bogoslof is a volcanic peak 
that has been active a number of times since white men first observed it. 
Eruptions known to have occurred in 1796, 1883, 1906, 1910, and 1923-27 
have wrought many changes on the island. Sometimes a large rock mass 
would be pushed up to a height of 500 feet, only to disappear later and 
be succeeded by other rock formations thrust up in the immediate vicinity. 
This is one place where the processes of vulcanology can be witnessed in 
actual operation. Despite the disturbances that accompany such changes, 
colonies of sea lions frequent the rocks, and sea birds nest there. 

BERING SEA REGION 

The coastal area from Bristol Bay to the Arctic Circle is known as the 
Bering Sea region. The important islands included in this geographical 




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Plate 7 

Upper: Course of the sun,, shown by exposures at 20-minute intervals, from roof of the Federal 
Building, Fairbanks, December 24, 1935. Courtesy Weather Bureau, U. S. Department of Commerce. 

Lower: Potato field in interior near Fairbanks, with a forest in the background. Photograph by 
Ray B. Dame, courtesy U. S. Department of the Interior. 






Plate 8 

Upper: Southeastern Alaska native making miniature totem pole for tourist trade. Photograph by 
Amos Burg, courtesy National Geographic Society. 

Lower: Native children in school at Hoonah, Southeastern Alaska. Photograph by Ray B. Dame, 
courtesy U. S. Department of the Interior. 





Plate 9 

Upper: Aleut women at entrance to their barabara. 

Lower: Eskimo children on Nunivak Island. Photograph by Henry B. Collins, Jr., Smithsonian 
Institution. 




ALASKA — WALKER 17 

area are St. Lawrence, St. Matthew, Nunivak, and the volcanic peaks 
St. Paul and St. George, known as the Pribilofs, the sole breeding ground 
for the seals of the great Alaska fur seal herd. 

The land along the Bering Sea coast, with the exception of a short 
stretch north of Bristol Bay, is low, only scattered hills appearing several 
miles back from the shore. Further inland the land rises to a low, rolling 
plateau of moderate relief on the north side of the Alaska Range and 
south of the Brooks Range. The coast line of Bering Sea has compara- 
tively few indentations and lacks deep-water harbors. The sea off this 
coast is so shallow that vessels of moderate draught sometimes go around 
out of sight of land. Farther northward toward Nome, the Seward 
Peninsula, and Bering Strait, rugged hills and low mountains occur, but 
the sea continues shallow. The two great rivers that drain interior Alaska, 
the Yukon, with a delta 80 miles mide, and the Kuskokwim, with a 
smaller but extensive delta, together with a few lesser rivers, flow into 
Bering Sea along this coast. The low coastal region is a maze of channels, 
sloughs, ponds, and lakes, making an ideal nesting ground for ducks, 
geese, and shore birds. 

Although there is no sharp line of demarcation between the Bering Sea 
coastal region and the interior, the latter is rather more elevated, has 
some timber, and its climate is not so directly affected by Bering Sea. No 
timber occurs for some distance back from the Bering Sea coast except 
in Norton Sound, but there is an abundant low growth of willows, alders, 
and other shrubs and herbaceous vegetation. The Eskimos inhabit this 
coast line as far south as Bristol Bay. 

Nome, on the north shore of Norton Sound, was founded as a result 
of the discovery of gold in Anvil Creek in 1898, and gold, platinum, and 
other minerals have been found elsewhere along this coast. Furs, mainly 
fox, mink, beaver, and muskrat, form the other principal product of this 
region. 

Bristol Bay, a large, shallow extension of Bering Sea into the coast 
line immediately north of the Alaska Peninsula, is world-famous as a 
red-salmon producing region. Numerous salmon canneries operate here 
each season during the main salmon run from June 25 to July 25, and 
hundreds of thousands of cases of canned salmon are packed annually. 
These constitute a considerable portion of the canned red salmon that the 
Americans have been enjoying for many years, and such a source of food 
supply is, of course, a great temptation to Japan. Salmon migrate up 
the Yukon and Kuskokwim, but no extensive fishery industries have been 
established on these streams. The fish farther up the streams are utilized 
chiefly for dog food and to a lesser extent for local human consumption. 



18 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

The main settlements of the Bering Sea region are Nushagak and Dil- 
lingham on Bristol Bay, Bethel on the Kuskokwim, St. Michael on 
Norton Sound, and Nome and Teller on Seward Peninsula. 

ARCTIC REGION 

The Brooks Range, rising to elevations of more than 10,000 feet, forms 
the watershed between the interior-Yukon drainage system and the Arctic 
slope. Most of the Arctic coast is low, rolling tundra with ranges of hills a 
comparatively short distance inland. The numerous lakes and streams of 
the region teem with fish. The largest vegetation consists of willows 5 or 
6 feet high at low elevations in protected ravines. In the less protected 
locations and along the coast vegetation is limited to much smaller plants, 
including willows only an inch or two high, mosses, lichens (reindeer 
moss), and a profusion of flowering plants that make the Arctic tundras 
fields of beauty during the short Arctic summer. 

Much fog and rain occurs in summer, and snow may fall at any time. 
Snowbanks and ice exist throughout the summer in protected locations, 
but the soil thaws from 3 to 4 inches on north slopes and to a depth of 
24 inches on sunny slopes. Below this depth the ground is perpetually 
frozen. The temperature of the frozen ground at a depth of 13 feet was 
in one instance found to be 12° F. 

The winter climate need not be described, as it is all that it is generally 
supposed to be — a constantly low temperature, with many severe storms 
and without sight of the sun for months at a time, depending on the 
latitude. However, the Alaskan Arctic climate is less severe than that of 
Siberia. 

No large white settlements exist on the Arctic coast. The larger native 
villages, at some of which there are trading posts, missionary stations, 
and hospitals, are Barrow, Wainwright, Point Hope, and Kotzebue. The 
native inhabitants are Eskimos, who live close to the coast. 

The long periods of low temperatures and very short periods of only 
moderate temperatures in the Arctic together with the scant precipitation 
so far restrict bacterial growth that materials and articles that would decay 
rapidly in warmer climates last indefinitely in northern Alaska. This con- 
dition has been largely responsible for the fine state of preservation of 
the many large collections of Eskimo articles brought out of the Arctic. 
In 1937 an Eskimo found at Beechey Point a sealed can containing written 
records. The can had been attached to a small balloon 82 years earlier by 
the English exploration vessel Enterprise in the eastern Arctic, had drifted 
through the Northwest Passage, and the Arctic cold had preserved it 
until found on the beach. 



ALASKA — WALKER 19 

The Arctic winter nights are not totally dark, for the moon continuously 
takes the place of the sun for 2 weeks of each month and provides con- 
siderable useful illumination. When the moon is not visible, there is some 
light from the stars, and of course the snow reflects much of whatever 
light is available. 

Igloos, known to most of us through pictures in geographies and con- 
ventionalized as dome-shaped houses built of blocks of snow, with a low 
snow tunnel for an entrance, are not used in Alaska as dwellings. The 
regular use of this type of dwelling is confined to the Eskimos of northern 
Canada and northwest Greenland. The word "igloo" means "house" or 
"home," and this term is used by the Eskimos of the Arctic and northern 
Bering Sea coast for their permanent dwellings, which are partially 
excavated in the ground and built of sod, driftwood, and bones of whales. 
A tunnellike entrance is usually provided. Along the Arctic coast tem- 
porary shelters made of snow blocks are used by travelers who are unable 
to find a regular igloo or village. When thus "caught out" they dig into a 
snowbank and cut out blocks of snow with which they build up the top 
of the bank and arch over the excavated portion, thus forming a crude 
type of snow igloo. It may either be of the lean-to type, open on one 
side, or completely walled in and a tunnel entrance provided. 

Coal seams crop out at places along the coast but have not been de- 
veloped except for local use. At one locality coal deposits at the surface 
of the ground became ignited and have burned for several years. Seepages 
of oil have formed pools or lakes in some places and suggest greater 
deposits in the ground. Certain areas have been set aside as naval oil 
reserves. 

Any consideration of the Arctic necessarily must give heed to the con- 
ditions of the Arctic Ocean, for the activities in the Arctic are as inti- 
mately associated with the sea as with the land. Ice conditions near the 
coast vary greatly from year to year. The ice pack along the Arctic coast 
may begin to show leads of open water where the main pack is breaking 
away from the shore ice as early as the middle of May. However, this 
condition is dependent very largely upon the winds. In general, Bering 
Strait is free of ice by July 1, and vessels can ordinarily get to Point Hope 
as early as July 10 to 15. Kotzebue Sound is usually open by July 15, 
but some years vessels cannot get in before the last of July. Point Barrow 
can usually be reached by August 1, but occasionally vessels cannot get 
through until the end of August. At any time during the so-called navi- 
gation season in the Arctic, the strong, shifting winds or currents may 
drift the ice pack in to shore, and unless great care is exercised to avoid 
such situations, vessels may be crushed. Eastward of Point Barrow, 



20 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

toward Herschel Island, leads open from time to time through which 
vessels can pass, but ice conditions are too uncertain and hazardous to 
insure regular navigation. The end of the navigation season is almost as 
irregular as the beginning. At Point Barrow new ice begins to form late 
in September in the bays, and the polar ice pack usually drifts toward 
land. In Kotzebue Sound new ice forms about September 15. 

Pack ice, which drifts on the Arctic Sea, sometimes moves as rapidly 
as 3 miles or more an hour. This region does not have icebergs such as 
are found in the North Atlantic, which are discharged from the Greenland 
glaciers. The enormous pressure built up by the motion of ice floes before 
currents and winds forces the ice to pile up when one end of it becomes 
anchored securely, resulting in pressure ridges and formations as much as 
100 feet in height. Sometimes when the wind and currents drive toward 
the shore, they force the ice pack up over the shore ice and onto bluffs 
as much as 75 feet in height. Occasionally a village will be overridden by 
this irresistible force in a matter of only a few minutes. 

INTERIOR REGION 

The great interior region of Alaska extends from the summit of the 
Brooks Range on the north to the summit of the Alaska Range on the 
south, and from the Canadian border on the east to the vaguely defined 
Bering Sea coastal region on the west. It is almost all within the drainage 
basin of the Yukon and the Kuskokwim Rivers and is sometimes referred 
to as a plateau. A traveler in this region does not gain the impression, 
however, of being on a plateau ; rather of being in a very large valley with 
a moderately rolling terrain, even including some small mountain ranges. 
Elevations are from about 800 to 6,500 feet, with large areas at levels 
of around 2,000 feet. In general, for some distance on either side of 
the rivers there are forests of moderate-size trees, composed of white 
spruce, black spruce, larch, poplar, aspen, and birch. Away from the rivers 
the trees are small and often so scattered as not to be worthy of the 
designation forest. 

Throughout interior Alaska precipitation is scant; the summers are 
warm and the winters very cold. The climate resembles that of the 
northern portion of our northern States, New York, Minnesota, North 
Dakota, Montana, and Idaho. In the region of Fairbanks killing frosts 
are usually absent from May 29 to August 26. The ground throughout 
the interior region is in general frozen to bedrock, but thaws during the 
summer to a maximum depth of about 18 to 20 inches unless the covering 
of vegetation is removed during farming operations, in which event the 



ALASKA — WALKER 21 

ground thaws to about 30 inches. In a shaft sunk to a depth of 300 feet 
it was found that the ground was frozen at the bottom. However, at 
places in the interior, well-drained southern exposures are not perpetually 
frozen, each summer thawing the previous winter's freeze. There is no 
evidence that this region was glaciated at the time the great ice sheet 
covered so much of North America farther south. 

The Yukon River heads within 25 miles of salt water not far from 
Skagway but traverses 2,300 miles before it reaches salt water at its 
80-mile-wide delta at Bering Sea. About 800 miles of it flows in Canadian 
territory and 1,500 miles in Alaska, and its total drainage basin is about 
330,000 square miles. The Yukon is navigable from its mouth to White- 
horse in Canadian territory, and many of its tributaries are large streams, 
navigable for considerable distances for boats of moderate draught. 

Each spring the Yukon offers the interesting phenomenon of being 
frozen near its source and near its mouth, with some of its middle length 
navigable for a short period before the ice moves in the upper and lower 
reaches. In its lower portion the fall is so slight that the tide is ap- 
preciable almost 100 miles up the river. 

Mining has been the conspicuous activity of the interior region. In 
the early days the picturesque placer miners worked with pick, shovel, and 
pan, or with sluice box, on the numerous creeks. When these methods 
were no longer profitable, large-scale mining by power dredges and the 
thawing of frozen earth by forcing cold water into the ground through 
driven pipes was inaugurated, with a revival of activity in the Fairbanks 
region. In some sections hydraulic placering has been carried on, as it is 
in the Canadian Klondike. 

A less conspicuous activity that has sustained the region when the more 
spectacular mining failed is the trapping of fur-bearing animals such as 
foxes, mink, marten, lynx, otters, ermine, muskrats, beavers, wolves, 
coyotes, wolverines, black bears, hares, marmots, and squirrels. The 
raising of some of these in captivity has become a thriving industry. 
General farming continues on an increasing scale in the Tanana Valley, 
mainly near Fairbanks. Many excellent crops have been raised and the 
possibilities of certain agricultural work well demonstrated. 

For a number of years Fairbanks has been the principal metropolis of 
this region, but its population fluctuates widely in response to the con- 
ditions of mining and other activities in the region. Perhaps its future 
will be more stable now that it is connected with Canada and the States 
by the new highway, in addition to its connections with the southern 
Alaska coast by the Richardson Highway at Valdez and by the Alaska 
Railroad to Anchorage, Whittier, and Seward. Fairbanks also has two con- 

4 



22 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

nections with the Yukon River system, one in a northeasterly direction by 
the Steese Highway to Circle, and the other by the Alaska Railroad to 
the station of Nenana, on the Tanana River, a distance of 56 miles, 

Tanana is at the junction of the Tanana River with the Yukon River 
and, like various other small settlements throughout interior Alaska, is 
important as a provisioning and outfitting point for parties going into the 
more remote sections to prospect for minerals, to trap, or to hunt. 

NATIVE PEOPLES 
ORIGIN 

The efforts of the Japanese to gain a foothold by way of Alaska during 
the present war are a reenactment of previous migrations of people from 
Asia into North America going far back of recorded history. Alaska is 
part of the most natural route from Asia to the Americas. The 56-mile- 
wide Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia, in the middle of which 
are two islands, Big and Little Diomede, one belonging to Russia and 
the other to the United States, is not a barrier to Eskimos in their skin 
boats, for they regularly go back and forth. 

Furthermore, even this partial barrier has not long existed, as nature 
measures time. When the ice sheets of the last glacial period still covered 
the northern parts of North America and Eurasia some 15 to 20 thousand 
years ago, ocean levels all over the word were several hundred feet lower 
than at present because of the enormous quantities of sea water withdrawn 
to form the ice caps. The eastern parts of Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and 
the adjacent portion of the Arctic Ocean are so shallow that if the sea 
level had been lowered only 180 feet or the land raised by that amount, 
Siberia and Alaska would have been connected by a land isthmus over 
500 miles wide at its narrowest point. Such an isthmus would form a 
highway far wider than the Isthmus of Panama and many other land 
links between larger areas across which animal life has moved. As rapidly 
as land is uncovered by the ocean it is occupied by plants and animals, 
so that even before the lowest land emerged, animals of the two areas 
would approach each other and probably swim the ever narrowing and 
shoaling channel connecting the two continents. 

The elevation and sinking of this area may have occurred several times, 
so that successive waves of animals, both from Asia and from North 
America, traversed the route. According to all indications it was along 
this route that the early ancestors of the American Indians entered this 
continent from northeastern Asia. When most of Canada and the northern 
portion of the United States were covered by the ice cap of the glacial 



ALASKA — WALKER 23 

period, the interior and the western and northwestern parts of Alaska were 
free of ice and therefore provided a haven for plants and animals, 
including man. 

In addition to the human population that came to America by this 
route, we received the ancestors of the present-day wapiti (erroneously 
known as the elk), mountain sheep, bison, mammoths, mastodons, bears, 
cats, including one very much like the African lion of the present day, 
and other animals. By the same route ancestors of the horses, camels, and 
dogs, which apparently originated in the Americas, reached the Old 
World. We know that these animals actually lived in northern, central, 
and western Alaska during the Pleistocene, or glacial period, for their 
bones are frequently recovered from the frozen muck in gold-mining op- 
erations. No skeletal remains of man contemporaneous with the extinct 
mammals have yet been discovered, but the presence of an occasional 
flint implement in the frozen muck, and the fact that the same species of 
mammals were hunted by early man in Colorado, New Mexico, and else- 
where in the Plains area, suggests that early human remains will eventually 
be found in Alaska. 

There are now in Alaska four basic types of natives: The Eskimos, 
who frequent the Arctic and Bering Sea coast ; the Athapascan Indians of 
the interior; the Aleuts, who inhabit the Aleutian Chain and part of 
the Alaska Peninsula; and the Tlingit-Haida Indians, who dwell in the 
southern coastal region from Yakutat east and south to the Queen Char- 
lotte Islands. When the Russians discovered Alaska the natives of the 
Kodiak-Afognak region, the base of the Alaska Peninsula, Kenai Peninsula, 
and the Prince William Sound region were of Eskimo stock, but they 
are now a mixture of many strains. 

Ethnological studies on the Alaskan natives have been made by the 
Smithsonian Institution, Yale University, the American Museum of 
Natural History, the University of Pennsylvania, and other institutions. 
In recent years archeological excavations by Hrdlicka, Collins, Jenness, 
De Laguna, Rainey, and Geist have provided new and interesting informa- 
tion on early stages of Eskimo and Aleutian culture. 

INDIANS OF SOUTHEASTERN ALASKA 

The Indians of Southeastern Alaska are the best known, for they live 
in the region in which there has been the greatest concentration of white 
residents. They are short and stocky, and in many the features have an 
Oriental appearance. The two principal tribes in Southeastern Alaska are 
the Tlingit and Haida. Small local groups of the Tlingit are known under 



24 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

other names, such as Sitka, Stikine, Taku, Auk, and Hoonali. The Metla- 
katlans, now living on Annette Island near Ketchikan, were Tsimshian 
natives of British Columbia who migrated to Annette Island in 1887. 

'These people are primarily fishermen and are thoroughly at home 
on the turbulent streams and tempestuous coastal waters of the region, as 
well as in the forests. They formerly made excellent dug-out canoes from 
large logs and in recent years have acquired remarkable proficiency in build- 
ing and operating boats propelled by internal-combustion engines. Prior to 
the arrival of the whites they wore skin clothing and made their living 
largely by fishing, hunting, and the taking of clams, crabs, and other 
forms of life from the beaches. When a market became available for furs, 
they trapped and sold or bartered skins of sea otter, fur seal, beaver, 
marten, mink, otter, ermine, fox, and muskrat. 

The natives of this region have become widely known through their 
totem poles. These decorated poles were in general histories or records 
of the outstanding events in the life of a family or clan. The clans usually 
took their names from some of the well-known animals of the region — 
for example, the raven, eagle, wolf, frog, and others, and these are among 
the animals represented on the totem poles. In short, the totem poles were 
a sort of coat of arms which carried a definite historical record. Un- 
fortunately, some missionaries and teachers, under the mistaken impression 
that the totem poles represented idols to be worshiped, induced the natives 
in some communities to destroy these real works of art. Most of the 
natives, however, were too strong of mind to be thus regulated, and many 
finely carved specimens are still standing. The larger totem poles are no 
longer manufactured, except when an old native can be induced by a 
white man to make a crude one for advertising purposes. Small totem 
poles, however, patterned after the designs of the larger originals, are 
still whittled out by native wood carvers and are commonly available 
for sale to tourists. 

In addition, the Southeastern natives carved and painted the fronts of 
their houses with elaborate designs, and made wooden bowls and other 
beautiful carvings in bone, horn, or wood. They made many baskets, 
mainly from spruce root and grass fibers, nearly all of which were orna- 
mented. The remarkable Chilkat blankets were made of mountain goat 
wool and plant fibers. 

The Southeastern Alaska natives have now become surprisingly well 
assimilated and integrated into the domestic and political economy of the 
region. Many of them own boats and equipment, and fish as independent 
operators during the fishing season. Others man boats working for 
canneries and other industries. They work in the canneries, mines, small 




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Plate 11 

Upper: Three of five umiaks towing a dead whale. The edges of the walrus hides covering the 
wood frame of the boat, together with the skin thongs that hold them taut, show plainly along the 
gunwales. Photograph by Heriry B. Collins, Jr., Smithsonian Institution; courtesy National Geo- 
graphic Society. 

Lower: Eskimos and kyaks at Nunivak Island, Bering Sea. Courtesy U. S. Department of the 
Interior. 



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Plate 12 

Upper: "Brailing," or removing salmon from a fish trap into a scow preparatory to taking them 
to the cannery. Courtesy Forest Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture. 

Lower: Typical salmon cannery scene in Southeastern Alaska. Courtesy American Can Company. 



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Plate 13 
Upper: King crabs are the foundation for a promising new industry of crab canning. 
Lower: Digging razor clams at low tide along the Gulf of Alaska. Photograph by G. P. Halferty. 
Courtesy Fish and Wildlife Service, U. S. Department of the Interior. 




ALASKA — WALKER 25 

boatyards, machine shops, and indeed work for or with the white man in 
practically all his activities including hunting and trapping. Many of 
them have found that they can make a substantial income by weaving 
baskets and making other curios for sale to tourists. 

ALEUTS 

The Aleuts inhabit the Aleutian Islands, the Shumagin Islands, and 
the north coast of the Alaska Peninsula east to Ugashik River. In most 
of their territory only a few kinds of land animals were available, but the 
sea provided an abundance of food. They hunted whales and sea otters 
in their light, skin-covered boats. Fish and birds were plentiful, and an- 
other source of food even more easily obtained was sea urchins, which were 
found in the shallow water close to shore. The houses of the Aleuts were 
half excavated in the ground and half built up with sod or driftwood, so 
that they required a minimum of fuel to keep them comfortable. Such 
houses were generally known by the Russian name "barabara." 

Two colonies of Aleuts that had been established on the Pribilof Is- 
lands by the Russians to provide labor for sealing operations have been 
well cared for by the United States Government, for whom they work 
in handling the seal herd. They have good homes, clothing well suited 
to the region, and many of them are fairly prosperous. However, owing 
to the threat of Japanese landing on the Pribilof s, they were removed from 
the islands in the winter of 1941-42, and have been temporarily quartered 
in Southeastern Alaska. Their reaction to this extreme change would be an 
interesting psychological study. Other Aleuts work in canneries in the 
Bristol Bay region, or on fox farms, engage in cod fishing or the opera- 
tion of boats, and in general have an important place in the white man's 
activities in the region. The Aleuts are now so thoroughly blended with 
the Russians and other Caucasians that pure-blood natives are rare. 

The finest basketry produced in Alaska, if not in the world, was formerly 
made by the native women of Attu Island. They were particularly skillful 
and painstaking, and fortunate, too, in having a type of grass on Attu 
Island better adapted for basket weaving than the grass that grows farther 
eastward in the chain. Unfortunately, the interest in keeping up the 
production of this type of artistry was not fostered, and for a number of 
years only four of the oldest women of the village did basket work; 
so it is doubtful if any of them are surviving at this time. The younger 
generation has not carried on the fine basket weaving of their ancestors, 
although some baskets are still made in the Aleutian Islands. 



26 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

ESKIMOS 

The Eskimos are inhabitants of the Bering Sea and Arctic coastal region, 
rarely being found far from the seacoast. These people are well built, 
short and stocky, and before the advent of white men they made their 
homes in semisubterranean houses built of sod, driftwood, and bones of 
whales. 

The absence of timber along the Bering Sea and Arctic coast makes 
residents dependent for warmth on driftwood, stone or pottery lamps 
burning animal oils, coal mined locally, or on fuel shipped to the region. 
Until recent years many Eskimos still lived in their semidugout houses and 
used whale-oil lamps for heating, cooking, and illumination. 

Whales, walruses, and seals are sought at every opportunity, as almost 
every portion of these animals is used in some manner by practically all 
who live in the Arctic. Fish are caught in open water of the streams, lakes, 
and ocean in summer, and through holes cut in the ice in winter. Caribou 
are hunted for their meat and for their skins, which are used for clothing. 
Arctic (or white) and blue foxes, ermine, lynx, and muskrats in the Kotze- 
bue Sound region provide negotiable products for barter and sale. Eider 
ducks, geese, and sea birds that nest on rocky cliffs are important for food 
and clothing. Berries and other plants from the tundra supplement the 
diet to a slight extent. The herds of reindeer introduced by the Govern- 
ment for the use of the Eskimos have greatly improved their condition. 

Eskimo clothing is made entirely of skins, those most often used being 
reindeer, ground squirrel, eider duck, cormorant, or murre. The parka, or 
outer garment, is made like a large shirt without buttoned opening in 
front, and has an attached hood which may be worn over the head or 
thrown back on the shoulders. The Eskimos are skillful ivory carvers, 
utilizing the tusks of walrus and mammoth. Indeed, this ivory was used 
in making many of their everyday implements and utensils before the 
advent of the white man. 

They are adept in the handling of their skin-covered boats. These are 
the kayak, or one-hole skin canoe, used mostly for seal hunting, and the 
umiak, a large open skin boat used for summer travel and for hunting 
whales and walruses. 

The Eskimos did not follow uniform burial practices. Sometimes the 
dead were placed on the open tundra not far from the village, together 
with some of the belongings of the deceased ; in other places graves were 
made among the loose rocks, or the body was covered with a pile of 
driftwood. Along the Bering Sea coast the dead were placed in boxes made 
of heavy driftwood timbers. 



ALASKA — WALKER 27 

INTERIOR ATHAPASCANS 

In general appearance and habits the Indians of the interior are more 
like those of the Great Plains, Rocky Mountain region, and central Canada, 
than are the natives of any other portion of the Territory. They lead 
much the same lives that the Indians farther south formerly lived, and 
that some still live. They maintain themselves by hunting, trapping, and 
fishing, and lead a seminomadic life. They do their own tanning and 
produce many attractive hand-made articles such as birchbark basketry 
ornamented with porcupine quills, and excellent moccasins, beaded and 
otherwise ornamented. Game and fish constitute much of their food, 
supplemented by berries from the profusion that grow in that region. 
Their welfare is fairly assured if there is an ample supply of fish and game 
for food, and fur-bearing animals to trap and sell or barter to obtain 
articles introduced by the white man, which they now use regularly. 

HISTORY 

The history of Alaska falls naturally into definite periods. We might 
consider that Alaska's ancient history ended and her medieval history 
began in July 1741, when men from Bering's expedition landed on Kyak 
and Wingham Islands near the mouth of the Copper River, and in the 
Alexander Archipelago of Southeastern Alaska. Unlike the history of 
most countries, scientific work started simultaneously with discovery, for 
a well-qualified naturalist, Georg Wilhelm Steller, accompanied Bering 
and was one of the party that landed on Kyak Island. This expedition was 
the culmination of a project that was inaugurated by Peter the Great of 
Russia. Only 4 days before his death on January 28, 1725, he drew up 
with his own hand and signed an order directing extensive exploration 
and scientific research in then almost unknown Siberia and the lands that 
were suspected of being adjacent. This started a long series of explora- 
tions conducted jointly by the Russian Navy and the Russian Academy of 
Sciences — the most comprehensive explorations that had been attempted 
by any nation up to that time. 

In 1728 Bering passed through the strait that now bears his name. He 
discovered and named the Diomede Islands at the middle of the strait, 
but visibility was so poor he did not see the Alaska mainland, although he 
was probably less than 40 miles from it. He was told by natives that land 
lay a short distance away, but he did not believe them. 

The Second Kamchatka Expedition built its own vessels in the harbor 
of Okhotsk. These were each 80 feet long, with a beam of 22 feet and a 
draught of 9i feet. Their construction, like every other phase of the ex- 



28 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

pedition, was carried out under the most difficult conditions, for it in- 
volved the overland transportation of men and materials from St. Peters- 
burg and other Russian inland towns to the seacoast, through unexplored 
land inhabited only by natives. 

After numerous delays the voyage that was to result in discovering the 
southern coast of Alaska started from Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka 
Peninsula June 4, 1741. The Dane Vitus J. Bering headed the expedition 
on the vessel St. Peter, while the St. Paul was commanded by his chief 
assistant, Alekseij Hitch Tchirikov. They sailed on a southeasterly course 
that took them around the west end of the Aleutian Islands and then 
eastward parallel with, but out of sight of, the Aleutian chain. In this 
vicinity the vessels were separated by a storm and did not again come to- 
gether, although both reached the shores of Alaska. Bering, in the 
St. Peter, worked easterly and northerly until he sighted land, probably 
Mount St. Elias, on July 16 (Old Style calendar). 

He did not make a landing until July 20, Old Style calendar (July 31, 
New Style calendar), 1741, when two small boats took parties ashore, 
one to Wingham Island above the upper end of Kyak Island to obtain 
fresh water, and the other put Steller and a helper on the west coast of 
Kyak near the south end of the island. Steller had several hours ashore, 
but it was only after insistent demands sent by messengers in small boats 
that Bering was able to induce Steller to give up his collecting of specimens 
and data and come aboard for the return voyage. There had been much 
friction between the two men during the voyage, and Steller was greatly 
irritated that he was permitted to remain ashore only a portion of 1 day, 
when he had anticipated, or at least hoped, that the expedition would 
spend the winter in the vicinity. 

The other party from the same vessel landed at a native camp on 
Wingham Island to fill their water casks, and picked up various articles 
including a stone that was obviously used as a whetstone. On this they 
found particles of copper, the first evidence of the occurrence of that 
metal in Alaska. 

Bering started the return voyage July 21, 1741, after allowing only 
the one day ashore, because he felt that he had accomplished his mission 
of finding the land for which he had searched. Returning, they landed 
on one of a group of low islands to take on water. Steller urged that they 
collect plants to be used to prevent scurvy. However, he was given no 
encouragement or assistance in the matter, so, in addition to collecting 
botanical material, he collected antiscorbutic material only for himself, 
which he perhaps shared with the captain. Many members of the party, 



ALASKA — WALKER 29 

including Bering, died from scurvy before completing the voyage, but 
Steller escaped the disease. 

Nagai Shumagin, a seaman sick with scurvy, was taken ashore and 
promptly died. He was the first of the expedition to die, and his surname 
was applied to the island group, and his given name to the island in this 
group on which he was buried. 

Numerous misfortunes occurred on this voyage that cannot be related 
here, but which can be found in full detail in Dr. Stejneger's excellent 
work on Steller listed in the bibliography. 

After having become separated from Bering's vessel, the 5"/. Peter, 
during the storm of June 20, 1741, Tchirikov, in the St. Paul, held a more 
southerly and easterly course, until early in the morning of July 15 he 
sighted mountains and land with trees. The exact location is not definitely 
known,, but it is probably a point now known as Cape Addington, off the 
west coast of Prince of Wales Island, only about 50 miles north of the 
southern end of Southeastern Alaska. He did not land at this point, but 
held a northwesterly course roughly paralleling the outer coasts of the 
islands we now know as Baranof and Chichagof. On July 17 he sent a 
boat ashore with 10 armed men commanded by Master Avraam Mikhailo- 
vitch Dementiev. The point at which they landed is not definitely known ; 
some persons believe it was in Sitka Sound, while others think it was 
Lisianski Strait. The boatload of men failed to return, and finally, on the 
23 d, Tchirikov sent another boat, his last, ashore under the command 
of Sidor Savelev. These men likewise failed to return. On the 24th two 
canoeloads of Indians paddled out toward the ship, which had been 
standing offshore. Obviously these were the first Alaska natives to be seen 
by white explorers. They approached within hailing distance, shouted 
"Agai, agai," and returned to shore. The St. Paul continued in the vicinity 
until July 27 without trace of their shore parties. Having sent their last 
boat ashore, they felt helpless as far as landing there was concerned, and 
as their water supply was running low, they decided to abandon the search 
and put about at once. On the return voyage they sighted land at various 
points along the southern coast but made no landings. They finally 
arrived at the Kamchatka base of the several exploring expeditions on 
October 9, 1741. On the return voyage they suffered seriously from scurvy 
and lost several men. Unfortunately for them, they did not realize that 
they could have run their vessel into any one of numerous inlets along 
this coast and tied up along steep bluffs with perfect safety, obtaining 
water even without a boat. 

Both vessels suffered numerous vicissitudes and losses, but enough of 
the party returned to Siberia to tell of the finding of the new land. 

5 



30 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

Bering's discoveries led to a series of private commercial expeditions by 
Russian fur traders to the Aleutian region and southern Alaska. In 1784 
Shelikof established the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska 
at Three Saints Bay on the southeastern side of Kodiak Island. There 
followed exploration and establishment of other trading posts, and finally 
the establishment of Sitka in 1805 as headquarters for the Russian 
American Company, which held a concession from the Russian Govern- 
ment for the entire Territory. This location was an ideal choice, for it 
has good harbors, an abundance of natural resources, and it is only a few 
miles from the open ocean and the northward migration route of the 
seals. Sitka shortly became a cultural and commercial metropolis and 
continued as such until Alaska was purchased by the United States and 
transfer of jurisdiction effected on October 18, 1867. 

The proposal to sell Alaska to the United States originated with the 
Russians, who were in need of funds and perhaps had some fear that 
such a valuable region so far from their usual base of operations might 
be taken from them by an enemy. The region was popularly called 
"Seward's folly" and "Seward's icebox" by those people in the United 
States who could not see the great wisdom and foresight of Secretary of 
State Seward when he negotiated the purchase of the Territory for 
$7,200,000. There were at that time other large, sparsely populated areas 
with an abundance of natural resources, so that the American public 
in general had little interest in exploring or planning for the develop- 
ment and protection of the resources of Alaska. 

Information that had been assembled by the Smithsonian Institution and 
made available to Secretary of State Seward and Senator Sumner of 
Massachusetts, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was an 
important factor, if not the principal one, in obtaining ratification of the 
treaty purchasing Alaska from Russia. Briefly, the events began about 
1853, when an enthusiastic, brilliant young biologist, Robert Kennecott, 
made contact with Spencer Fullerton Baird, then Assistant Secretary of 
the Smithsonian. In 1859 Kennecott went on a 3-year expedition into 
northwestern North America to explore and collect specimens for the 
Smithsonian Institution and the Audubon Club of Chicago. Kennecott's 
work brought to the Smithsonian Institution and to the attention of the 
scientific world much important material and valuable information re- 
lating to Alaska. 

While on this trip, Kennecott became fascinated with the region and 
its resources, and we can safely assume that his materials, information, 
and enthusiasm went far toward promoting the establishment of a 
scientific exploration section of the overland telegraph exploring expedition 



ALASKA — WALKER 31 

that was to lay out a route for a telegraph line from the Puget Sound 
region through British Columbia, Canada's Northwest Territories, Alaska, 
across Bering Strait to Russia. This expedition was financed by the North 
American Telegraphic Association companies, and was advised and 
assisted by the Smithsonian Institution. Upon the recommendation of the 
Institution, Kennecott was chosen to head the scientific party, and he 
selected to accompany him well-qualified young naturalists who had 
the endorsement of the Institution. Among these were G. T. Roth- 
rock, botanist; William H. Dall, H. W. Elliott, Charles Pease, H. M. 
Bannister, and Ferdinant Bischoff, geologists and zoologists; and 
G. W. Maynard. 

The party sailed from New York on March 21, 1865, crossed the. 
Isthmus of Nicaragua and sailed up the west coast of North America. 
The members of this party covered many different portions of the North- 
west, including Sitka, St. Michael, Nulato, Unalakleet, and Fort Yukon. 
Kennecott died at Nulato of heart failure before the work was completed, 
but he had kept notes and had left plans for the conduct of the work 
which were carried out by Dall, who succeeded to command. 

The successful completion of the trans-Atlantic cable caused work to 
stop on the overland telegraph line, and Bannister arrived in the eastern 
United States in January 1867 with the findings of the scientific party in 
Russian America. Baird, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian, used 
Bannister's material, together with Kennecott's notes and perhaps some 
information from other members of the party, in supplying Secretary of 
State Seward and Senator Sumner with data on northwestern North 
America. Baird pointed out the wealth of furs, fish, and timber, and 
showed that gold and copper had been found in the Territory and that 
agricultural crops could be raised there. Apparently practically all the 
specific information regarding the value of the Territory, including the 
usefulness of Sitka Harbor as a base for naval vessels, was supplied either 
by the Smithsonian Institution or by men who had worked in Alaska under 
its auspices. 

The earliest scientific explorations of Alaska and adjacent regions 
following the purchase by the United States were initiated by the Smith- 
sonian Institution through the interest of Professor Baird, then Secretary 
of the Institution. Baird obtained military appointments for such men as 
E. W. Nelson and L. M. Turner, enthusiastic, promising young naturalists, 
to go to the Territory in the United States Army Signal Corps as weather 
observers, with instructions and equipment furnished by the Smithsonian 
for the collection of natural history material and information of general 
scientific interest. In the case of Nelson, this led to a lifetime of keen 



32 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

interest in the welfare of Alaska, during which he obtained the enactment 
of the Alaska Game and Fur Law of January 13, 1925, now in effect, 
which gave those resources their first real protection. 

Beginning with the late Dr. Leonhard Stejneger, who represented the 
United States Government in the fur-seal investigations, numerous mem- 
bers of the Smithsonian staff, biologists, geologists, and anthropologists, 
have for half a century worked in Alaska or on Alaska material, and have 
directly or indirectly helped in the exploration, development, or making 
of policies regarding the Territory and its resources. 

The region was known as Russian America prior to our acquisition of 
it. From that time on it has been called Alaska, a name derived from a 
native word meaning "the great land." 

Those who went to the Territory soon after its purchase were unre- 
stricted in their exploitation, and as a result the immense herds of fur 
seals were further depleted and the sea otters almost exterminated. Salmon 
canneries and salteries were established at particularly choice locations, and 
avaricious canners and fisherman erected permanent barriers across the 
streams to prevent the fish from going up, in order that they might 
catch them the more readily below the barriers. Thus began the utiliza- 
tion and destruction of one of the greatest natural food resources that 
has ever existed in the world. "The Silver Horde," by Rex Beach, 
gives a vivid and not much overdrawn picture of the salmon industry 
of the early days. 

That period from the time of the purchase of Alaska until about 1900 
might be characterized as Alaska's "dark age," for while the region was 
nominally under the administration of the United States Army, it was in 
fact a forgotten country with little supervision, law, or order. Finally 
conditions became so bad during the days of the gold rush in 1898-99 that 
upon the request of people in the region the British Government sent a 
gunboat to bring about order. This action, together with accounts of 
the lawlessness, finally awakened the administrative officials and Congress 
to the need for action. As a result, civil and criminal codes were enacted 
by Congress in 1899 and 1900, and a start toward a government was 
made. The capital was continued at Sitka until 1912, when it was moved 
to Juneau. 

The finding of gold at Juneau in 1880 and in the Klondike in 1898 
brought such publicity to the Territory and such a great influx of people 
that the turn of the century might be looked upon as the beginning of 
Alaska's modern history. The Klondike is not, of course, in Alaska, but 
in Yukon Territory, a Canadian province. However, the boundary lines 
were so poorly known and the urge to search for gold so strong that it 



, 



J m *"" * 



V 



Plate 14 

Upper: Harems cf fur seals on St. Paul Island, Pribilof group. The small, dark seals are the 
pups, the silvery seals are the mothers, and the large, dark individuals are the bulls, each in approxi- 
mately the center of its harem. Courtesy Fish and Wildlife Service, U. S. Department of the Interior. 

Lower: Murres on Walrus Island. They have somewhat the appearance of penguins, but can fly. 
Photograph by Lavoy. 



« 



» ^*"* « * • 



> % ': 






. * r Sm&'*: / 




Plate 15 

Upper: Dall mountain sheep rams in Mount McKinley Park region. Photograph by Adolph 
Murie, courtesy National Park Service, U. S. Department of the Interior. 

Lower: Caribou swimming Yukon River. Photograph by Frank Dufresne, courtesy Fish and 
Wildlife Service, U. S. Department of the Interior. 








6-3' 



3 U R 

- 1 uSa 



* o 



o o 



«tS * ^u-5 





^T3 g o 


S2S 


CO ^ hi -^ 
^ C en c 


eft: 
artm 


ight: 
kitch 

fox 

artm 


^ & 


" &> 3 <D 


Sq 


•53Q 











^gjXrptS&i^ 



Plate 17 

Upper: Musk oxen in the feed lot enclosure at the Biological Survey Experiment Station near Fair- 
banks, prior to being taken to Nunivak Island, where they were released. This picture shows the 
characteristic defense formation employed by these animals. Courtesy U. S. Department of the 
Interior. 

Lower: Big brown bear fishing for salmon. Photograph by Amos Burg, courtesy National Geo- 
graphic Society. 




; 






ALASKA — WALKER 33 

was not long until prospectors were roaming far and wide over both 
Alaska and northern Canada. As a result, not only gold but other minerals 
were found, which further stimulated settlement of the Territory. The 
finding of gold on the beach of Seward Peninsula led to the establishment 
of a settlement that came to be known as Nome, located in a very differ- 
ent type of country from the Klondike region. Other gold fields, such as 
those on many of the streams in interior Alaska, saw the establishment 
of other small settlements, thus paving the way for further developments. 

Since prospectors frequently did not find gold or other minerals, many 
of them took to trapping to enable them to eke out an existence, and of 
course they lived largely off the game of the country. Copper deposits 
were found and developed as the Kennecott and Latouche mines, which 
have recently exhausted the ore bodies and are now abandoned. Treadwell 
and other gold mines were developed. Oil was discovered and small 
wells developed. In 1915 the United States Government took over a 
short length of old railroad and started construction of the Alaska Rail- 
road, to extend from Seward to Anchorage and on to Nenana and Fair- 
banks in the interior, to tap the coal fields and connect with the great 
inland waterway of the Yukon River system. It was completed in 1923. 
Salmon salting and canning, herring packing, halibut fishing, clam canning, 
and crab and shrimp fishing and packing increased until the supply was 
jeopardized in some regions. Spruce, hemlock, and yellow cedar were cut 
for local use in building and for the construction of large fish traps and 
docks, and some lumber has been exported. The raising of fur-bearing 
animals in pens and on islands has developed into an important industry. 

Where considerable deposits of minerals were found and active mines 
developed, boom towns were inevitable. These, like most others of their 
kind, have an uncertain life span, depending for their existence upon the 
continuance of mining operations. A more stable although sparse settle- 
ment of the Territory has now developed, however, so that there is a 
scattering population throughout the entire Territory. This population is 
augmented in the summertime along the southeastern, southern, and 
Bristol Bay coasts by the large crews brought to Alaska from the States 
by the salmon packers, who have need for a large number of workers 
for the short period of the salmon run. 

Alaska's geographic and family names bring to mind the romance and 
tragedy of her history. Many of the foreign names are those of Russian, 
Spanish, and French explorers, officials, or other prominent personages 
such as Bering, Chirikof (Tchirikov), Quadra, La Perouse, Pribilof, 
Lisianski, Kotzebue, Zarembo, Tebenkof, Woronkofski, Baranof, Chicha- 
gof, Caamano, Etolin, and Malaspina. Other names less strange to the 



34 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

English ear commemorate British and American explorers such as Cook, 
Vancouver, Dixon, Beardslee, Abercrombie, Brooks, Prince of Wales, 
and Dall. Admiralty Island is named in honor of the British Navy. Rocks 
or other dangers to navigation were sometimes named for the ships that 
were wrecked on them, as in the case of Mariposa Rock and Tahoma Reef. 
The names of ships more fortunate have been commemorated in many 
places, such as Dora Bay, and Orca Bay and Inlet. 

Some of the geographic names are descriptive, as, for example, De- 
marcation Point, indicating the boundary line between Canada and Alaska 
on the Arctic Ocean; Icy Straits, so named because of the icebergs fre- 
quently found there; and Skookum Inlet, which means "strong" in the 
language of the natives and refers to the strong tides through the inlet. 
Success and failure in the search for gold have been recorded in the names 
Nugget Creek and Poor Man's Creek. Turn-again-arm records one of 
the many disappointments encountered by the great English navigator, 
Captain Cook, who found that he had to turn back again when he had 
reached the head of the inlet now bearing his name and found that it was 
not the Northwest Passage for which he had been searching. Ford's Terror 
and Disenchantment Bay reveal the frame of mind of other explorers. 

Saints' names applied to geographical locations usually commemorate 
the Saint's day on which they were discovered. The origin of "Nome" 
is somewhat uncertain. One version is that a draftsman wrote the word 
"name" on a map opposite the nameless village that was established on 
the shores of Seward Peninsula, as a suggestion that someone name the 
town. Later, through a mistake in copying, it became "Nome." Another 
explanation is that Nome is a contraction of a native expression. 

NATURAL RESOURCES 

Gold is prominently associated with the history of Alaska but is only 
one of its many valuable products. The Territory is a veritable treasure 
house of natural resources — minerals, water power, timber, and wildlife, 
including fur and game mammals, birds, fish and shellfish. 

ANIMAL LIFE 

Fish and Shellfish 

Along most of the coastal region the expression "the table is set when 
the tide is out" refers to the abundance of marine life that inhabits the 
tidal portion of the beaches, almost any of which can be eaten raw, roasted, 
or steamed. In addition to those that are in plain sight, many can be 



ALASKA — WALKER 35 

obtained by digging a few inches beneath the beach surface, and many, 
including small fish, can be found by turning over stones on the beach. 
The natives who inhabited the coastal region obtained a large portion 
of their food from the beaches before they took up the white man's 
mode of life. People stranded on the beach need not suffer for want of 
food, for the clams, mussels, snails, fish, and other small marine creatures 
can either be eaten raw or cooked on the beach. 

Even in the interior, Bering Sea coastal section, and Arctic region it is 
theoretically possible to obtain fish for food in the winter by digging 
them out of the ice and muck in which they are frozen, for certain small 
fish inhabiting those regions are frozen during the winter and thaw out 
the following spring to resume their normal activity. 

The salmon fisheries harvest five different species of salmon, known 
as the king or chinook, the red or sockeye, the coho or medium red, the 
humpback or pink, and the chum or dog salmon. The catch of king 
salmon, the largest species, has usually been treated by a mild salting 
process, after which it was smoked and sold as kippered salmon. Some 
king salmon have pink flesh, others white. The fish are indistinguishable 
externally, and the quality is the same, but the pink variety usually sells 
for a higher price merely because of its more attractive appearance. 

The red or sockeye salmon is usually canned and is well known in the 
American markets. It is the salmon that was the object of the bitter 
strife in the Bristol Bay region so graphically described by Rex Beach 
in his novel, "The Silver Horde." Red salmon run up numerous streams, 
mainly the larger ones or those on which there are lakes, but through 
excessive fishing the run is not so large as formerly. 

The humpback or pink salmon is the most abundant fish along the 
southeastern and southern coast line. It derives its name from the great 
hump that develops on the back of the male immediately after it enters 
fresh water. It is of excellent quality and is extensively canned and sold 
under the name "pink salmon." 

The coho, medium red, or silver salmon runs extensively in streams 
throughout the Pacific coast, usually coming in late in the season and 
often enabling packers to fill their cans with it when they have not been 
able to obtain enough of the higher-priced salmon from the earlier runs. 

The chum or dog salmon has uniformly light-colored meat and derives 
one of its names from the extreme development of teeth that resemble 
the canine teeth of a dog. The greatly developed, hooked upper jaw, 
together with the high hump and blotches on the sides which appear 
immediately after the fish enter fresh water are characteristics of this 
species. 



36 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

There is not much difference in the quality of the five different species 
of salmon when canned, but because of the rather more attractive appear- 
ance of the so-called red salmon, housewives have become accustomed 
to demanding it and accordingly are now required to pay higher prices 
for it than for other species. Some years ago one enterprising salmon 
packer who had a considerable pack of one of the lighter-colored salmon, 
such as the humpback or chum, placed labels on his cans which bore the 
wording, "This fish is guaranteed not to turn red in the can." Actually, 
of course, there is no material change in the color of any salmon after 
it is canned. 

The 1941 pack of Alaska canned fish totaled 6,932,040 cases with a 
value of $56,217,601. In addition to the great industry of canning 
salmon, there is a lesser one of mild salting and hard salting these fish. 

The life history of the salmon is. one of nature's most interesting 
phenomena. The parent fish deposit their eggs in the gravel of streams 
during the summer or fall and die soon after. Some of the eggs hatch 
that fall, others the next spring. At ages varying from 1 to 4 years, accord- 
ing to the species, the young fish go down the streams to salt water, and 
from that time until they return as adult fish no one knows where they 
spend their time. When they are 2 to 8 years of age they approach the 
mouth of the stream in which they began life. They sometimes arrive 
suddenly in large schools and usually stay in salt water near the mouth of 
the stream for a few days. At this time they are trim, symmetrical silver 
beauties, but immediately after entering brackish or fresh water their habits 
and appearance undergo radical changes. They cease to eat, a prominent 
hump develops on the backs of the males, the upper jaw elongates and 
develops a pronounced downward hook, and long, hooked teeth develop. 
The coloration undergoes an equally great change. In most species the 
head becomes greenish, while the body becomes a deep maroon in some, 
almost black above and white below in others, or grayish with large vertical 
blotches on the sides. The females change slightly in form and assume 
colors almost like those of the males. The fish gradually work upstream to 
the spawning grounds, where they lay their eggs. These grounds may be 
barely above salt water, or more than 2,000 miles up large rivers such as 
the Yukon. Every obstacle in the path is overcome, or the fish die trying. 

Even before they have finished spawning the fish become emaciated, 
develop large discolored spots like sores on the body, and would not be 
recognized as the same fish of a few weeks earlier. Within a few days, 
or at most weeks, after spawning, every salmon dies. 

Salmon are captured in salt water within a few miles of shore as they 
are returning to the streams in which they began life. The important 



ALASKA — WALKER 37 

methods of taking them include salmon traps, purse and beach seining, 
gill netting, and trolling. A salmon trap consists of a line of piles hung 
with nets extending from the shore sometimes as much as a mile or more 
toward deep water and ending in a maze of piles also hung with nets. 
Salmon swimming near shore, stopped by the net, follow the "lead" 
toward deep water and enter the maze, or trap proper, from which they 
are unable to escape. 

In purse seining, a school of fish away from the shore, usually near 
the mouth of a stream, is encircled by laying a net around them, bringing 
the ends together and pursing or drawing it closed, so that the fish can 
be dipped into a boat. Beach seining follows the same procedure except 
that it is done from the shore, and the fish encircled in the seine are 
dragged to the beach for actual capture. 

Gill netting consists of suspending in the water a net made of small 
thread woven into a relatively large mesh; the top of the net is kept at 
the surface of the water by floats, and the lower edge is held down by lead 
weights. These nets are operated in muddy waters day or night and in 
clear waters mainly at night. The salmon attempt to swim through the 
mesh and become entangled. 

Near the outer coast both hand and power trolling are employed in 
capturing king salmon, and occasionally cohos, the only kinds of salmon 
that will take bait. The king salmon is gamy and puts up a good fight. 

Herring constitute another of the important fish resources of the 
region. They are utilized extensively as bait in halibut fishing and for 
the manufacturing of fish meals and oils; they are also salted and smoked. 
Halibut occur both in the inshore waters and on banks off the southern 
coast, and halibut fishing is an important industry that yields many mil- 
lions of pounds of fresh or frozen fish each year. While cod fishing has 
never reached extensive proportions in or adjacent to Alaskan waters, it 
has been carried on in a small way for many years, producing about 
3,000,000 pounds a year, and there is a sufficient supply of fish to main- 
tain a much larger catch. The various forms of rockfish, trout, and other 
fish are less utilized but will undoubtedly be taken more extensively in the 
future. Trout of several species are abundant in many of the lakes and 
streams, and since some of them prey on the young of the salmon, their 
taking is encouraged, except in a few streams that are particularly favored 
by local sportsmen. 

The canning of razor clams in the Prince William Sound region and on 

the southern side of the base of the Alaska Peninsula has developed into a 

thriving small industry that produces an exceptionally choice product for 

the market. Shrimp and crabs occur in practically all the coastal waters, 

6 



38 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

and an industry has developed in Southeastern Alaska in trawling for 
shrimp, which are shipped either canned or iced. Alaskans have long 
enjoyed two types of large, delicious crabs, but it is only in recent years 
that the taking of these has developed into an industry. 

The so-called Dungeness crab grows as large as 8|- inches across the 
shell and weighs as much as 3 pounds. These crabs live in relatively 
shallow water along most of the southern coast and are fairly easily caught 
with inexpensive devices. They are canned or shipped iced, much as 
lobsters are shipped. 

The king crab, a gigantic spiderlike creature that reaches a width of 
5^ to 6 feet including the legs, and weighs over 20 pounds, lives along 
the entire southeastern and southern coast line. Recent reconnaissance 
work by the Fish and Wildlife Service has disclosed that these crabs 
occur in sufficient quantities in some locations to justify the development 
of an industry for harvesting them. Until the beginning of World War II, 
practically all the crab meat of this type on the United States market had 
been packed by Japanese operating in Japanese vessels, which made most 
of their catch immediately outside of Alaska territorial waters in Bering 
Sea and along the southern coast, if they did not actually take some of 
their crabs within our waters. With the exploratory work that has been 
done, this delicacy should become available for the American table far 
more generally than it has been heretofore. 

The total Alaskan catch of food fish and shellfish in 1941 was 
383,332,387 pounds, with a value of $61,076,073. This probably repre- 
sents the maximum that should be taken of species now generally utilized, 
but others that could supply large quantities are as yet untouched. In addi- 
tion, meals and oils totaling 47,793,133 pounds, with a value of $2,401,222 
were produced from offal and fish not utilized for food. Salmon oil, 
when properly prepared, is rich in vitamins A and D. 

Aquatic Mammals 

The fur seals that provide the beautiful sealskin garments are very 
different from the hair seals and sea lions common along many seacoasts. 
Fur seals occur in only a few regions in the world, the largest colony 
being the Alaskan, which inhabits the Pribilof Islands in Bering Sea 
about 200 miles northwesterly from Dutch Harbor. 

The seals live on and about these islands from May to August and 
spend the remainder of the year on a leisurely trip through the Aleutian 
passes southward into the Pacific Ocean, almost to the Equator, then east- 
ward until they are from 300 to 500 miles off the California coast, and 



ALASKA — WALKER 39 

then northward on the return trip, roughly following the western coast 
of North America but gradually approaching it until in the vicinity of 
Sitka they are only 30 to 150 miles off shore. From above Sitka or slightly 
north of that point, they swing westward across the Gulf of Alaska, until 
they are again at the Aleutian passes through which they go northward 
to the Pribilof Islands for their summer assemblage. 

Fur seals are highly polygamous. The most powerful males arrive at 
the islands before the females, take up locations on the beach and keep 
rival males at a distance. When the females arrive, they come out of the 
water and are added to one of the harems. Their young are born here, 
and a few days later the adult seals mate. The mothers nurse their young, 
then go to sea to feed, returning at intervals of several days to care for 
their young, which devote their time to playing with other pups and 
sleeping. When old enough, they go to the beach and learn to swim 
in shallow water near the shore. 

Before pelagic sealing was restricted, this seal herd provided the 
principal cause of activity in Bering Sea and the North Pacific Ocean 
for many years. Ships of many nations, particularly those of the United 
States, Great Britain, Russia, and Japan, vied with each other in efforts 
to capture their share of the seals. As a result the herd was threatened with 
extermination and diplomatic relations were strained, until by international 
treaty between the United States, Great Britain, Russia, and Japan in 1911, 
pelagic sealing was stopped, and the administration of the herd was placed 
in the hands of the United States. Killing of seals was permitted only on 
the Pribilofs. This has resulted in the gradual upbuilding of the herd in a 
highly satisfactory manner. The 1940 census found a population of 
2,185,136 seals, an increase over the previous year of 164,362. Under 
the provisions of the international treaty, all four of the nations that are 
parties to the treaty are to participate in the proceeds from the islands. 
Unfortunately the treaty is no longer in full force, as the Japanese signi- 
fied their intention of withdrawing from the pact in October 1941. 
To Americans, the herd has been of value principally because of the 
beautiful furs obtained from the Seals, but to a nation like Japan, which 
is so in need of food resources and fats, it would be of even greater 
importance because the seals furnish both meat and fat. 

A total of 65,263 sealskins were taken on the Pribilofs in 1940, and 
95,013 in 1941. The handling of the Alaska fur seal herd on the 
Pribilofs has probably been ,the world's most successful experiment 
in wildlife administration. 

Sea otters formerly abounded along the southern coast and about the 
Aleutian Islands, as well as in the vicinity of the Commander Islands, 



40 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

where Bering's shipwrecked crew wintered following their discovery of 
Alaska in 1741. When they returned to Russia, they took with them some 
sea otter skins and it was this fur that stimulated Russian activity in the 
exploration of Alaska and the establishment of trading posts there, for 
the sea otter fur was at once recognized as being far superior to any other 
with which the Russians were acquainted. Therefore, the immediate ob- 
ject of further trips to the new-found shores was to obtain skins of sea 
otters, which at once became a favorite with royalty and commanded high 
prices. This led to intensive search for sea otters, with the result that 
they were greatly depleted by the time the United States took over the 
Territory. In the succeeding years of neglect of the region they were still 
further reduced, until it was feared that they might become extinct. 

During the Russian regime a sea otter skin sold for as much as $2,000. 
The price has declined since about 1880 because the skins became so very 
rare that they were no longer in style. The treaty of 1911 between the 
United States, Great Britain, Russia, and Japan for the protection of the 
seals also included the sea otters, and under the absolute protection that 
has since been given them, they have gradually increased from a few 
widely scattered individuals that remained at that time. If rigid protection 
is continued, there are excellent prospects of reestablishing these valuable 
animals along the entire coast. 

Sea otters are larger than land or river otters, have less guard hair 
and an exceedingly dense, soft, plushlike underfur, surpassing in softness 
and density any other known fur except possibly chinchilla. The colora- 
tion is very dark brown or sooty, with a sprinkling of silvery hairs. The 
animals spend almost their entire time in salt water, only occasionally 
coming out onto rocks to rest. They feed on a variety of invertebrate 
marine life, but mainly sea urchins which they obtain from the bottom 
of the ocean. The sea otter's method of eating these is unique. The 
animal lies on its back, holds the sea urchin in its hands and breaks it on 
its chest; sometimes a stone is placed on the breast and the sea urchin 
is pounded against it. It is also claimed that a sea otter sometimes holds 
a sea urchin in one hand, and another urchin or a stone in the other 
hand, and pounds them together, but some able zoologists doubt that 
sea otters can hold such objects in a single front paw. The chest is a 
table on which the fragments are handled. Baby sea otters spend much 
time on their mother's chest while she floats about on her back. 

Walruses frequent the ice off the Arctic and northern Bering Sea 
coasts as well as the remainder of the circumpolar region. They are 
gigantic seals that are highly specialized in their habits, feeding mainly 
on clams and other slow-moving aquatic life that they obtain from the 



*■ 



Plate 18 

Upper: Scene in forest composed mainly of spruce, in Southeastern Alaska. Photograph by E. S. 
Shipp. 

Lower: Sawmill at Ketchikan, showing the slip up which logs are hauled into the mill. Deer 
Mountain shows in the background. Photograph by W. A. Langille. 

Courtesy Forest Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture. 




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Plate 19 

Upper: Trout fishing in a typical salmon stream of Southeastern Alaska. 

Lower: An aerial view of Kootznahoo Inlet, Admiralty Island, Southeastern Alaska, showing a 
densely timbered area and a small portion of the very irregular coast line. 

Courtesy Forest Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture. 










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Plate 21 

Upper: Panning for gold. Photograph by E. S. Shipp, courtesy Forest Service, U. S. Department 
of Agriculture. 

Lower: Hydraulic placer gold mining near Fairbanks. The man directing the nozzle provides a 
scale for the picture. Photograph by Henry B. Collins, Jr., Smithsonian Institution; courtesy National 
Geographic Society. 



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ALASKA — WALKER 4l 

ocean bottom. They clamber out of the water onto the ice floes and com- 
monly associate in considerable numbers. Under their extremely thick, 
rough skin is a thick layer of fat called blubber, which is a reservoir of 
energy and assists in insulating the body against the rigors of the northern 
climate. The long tusks of the males and the smaller, shorter tusks 
of the females are so highly prized for ivory that intensive hunting at 
one time threatened these animals with extermination. Walruses are an 
important resource to the Eskimos, for they provide meat, fat for both 
food and fuel, skin, sinews, bones, and ivory for numerous domestic uses. 
A large proportion of the cribbage boards and other carved ivory articles 
made and sold by the Eskimos are from walrus tusks. Walruses are now 
classed as game animals and can be hunted only under certain restrictions. 

The sea lions and hair seals that frequent the rocks along portions of 
the Alaskan coast are important sources of food for the natives but are of 
little economic importance otherwise. They are commonly accused of 
destroying large quantities of food fish, but careful, unbiased studies have 
generally failed to substantiate the charges. However, at some places and 
under certain conditions they do kill many salmon. 

Several species of whales and porpoises inhabit the North Pacific, 
Bering Sea, and the Arctic Ocean, and from about 1848 to 1900 were of 
great economic importance. Indeed, when baleen or whalebone corset 
stays and buggy whips with baleen cores were in vogue, and whale oil 
was used in lamps, in the manufacture of soap and for other purposes, 
the hunting of whales was a thriving industry. Hundreds of whaling 
vessels frequently were in the Arctic Ocean off the Alaska coast in a 
single season. With the substitution of steel stays in corsets, the coming 
of the automobile, and the use of other oils, whaling suffered a sharp 
decline in the Arctic, where whales had become seriously depleted. It was, 
however, carried on to some extent in that region and farther south for 
some years longer. Whaling stations, both ashore and afloat, were op- 
erated at various points along the coast for the capture of whales and 
processing of the oil, meat, and baleen. Whaling practically ceased along 
the Alaska coast by 1925, and some of the vessels and equipment were 
moved from Alaska to the Antarctic. 

Land Fur Bearers 

Seventeen different kinds of land fur-bearing animals yield annually 
more than 376,000 skins with a total value of more than $2,300,000. The 
animals that furnish this crop are mink, foxes — red, cross, silver, blue, 
and white — beaver, muskrat, lynx, marten, land otter, ermine, wolf, 
wolverine, coyote, polar and black bears, hares, marmots, and squirrels. 



42 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

All the species are rather widely distributed, and the fur industry affords 
an important source of income directly or indirectly to nearly all the 
inhabitants of the Territory. 

The raising of fur-bearing animals, particularly blue foxes, marten, 
and mink, has developed into a thriving industry and is one that can be 
indefinitely expanded, for, in the words of one of the early promoters of 
stock-selling schemes for fur farming, "Fur wearers are breeding faster 
than fur bearers." Fur farming probably offers better opportunities of 
expansion than any other industry in the Territory, for Alaska possesses 
the necessary elements of climate and food supply, and the world market 
for furs is practically unlimited. Furs have a very high value per pound, 
so that their transportation is a minor problem; also, they keep well and 
so can be held until the market is favorable. 

On the Pribilof Islands the Federal Government is operating a highly 
successful blue fox farm in addition to its primary duties of administering 
the seal herd and caring for the natives. In 1941, 834 fox skins were 
taken on these islands. The Territorial Government, with aid from the 
Federal Government, operates an experimental fur farm at Petersburg to 
study problems of raising fur bearers, just as livestock experiment stations 
have been operated in the States for many years. 

Game Mammals 

The game mammals of the Territory, such as the caribou; mountain 
sheep; moose; deer; mountain goat; big brown, grizzly, and black bear, 
are among the leading attractions to the nonresident, whether he be big- 
game hunter or tourist. 

Caribou occur in large bands that range over much of the Territory and 
follow rather definite migration routes. During these migrations they con- 
gregate in such numbers that many thousands may be seen in a single 
day from a given point. They are the North American counterpart of the 
Old World reindeer. However, they are finer, larger animals than the 
reindeer and have not been domesticated, although a few individuals 
have been mixed with the reindeer herds in an effort to improve the 
reindeer strain-. Both sexes of the caribou have horns which they shed 
once a year during late winter; new antlers begin to grow early in the 
spring. Contrary to the popular belief that they eat only reindeer moss, 
caribou, like deer, actually eat a wide variety of grass and herbaceous 
plants and shrubs. These animals are of great importance to persons living 
in remote regions where domestic supplies of fresh meat cannot be ob- 
tained; the skins are invaluable to the natives and are also used to some 
extent by whites. 



ALASKA — WALKER 43 

Reindeer, the Old World relatives of our caribou and very similar to 
them, were brought into the Territory from 1891 to 1902, primarily to 
provide herds for the benefit of the natives of the coastal regions where 
caribou are not regularly found. These introductions were very success- 
ful, and over a period of years herds were developed and maintained by 
the natives, at first under the supervision of the Bureau of Education, 
now by the Indian Service. The animals were slaughtered as needed to 
provide food and skins for the natives, and later the herds increased 
to such an extent that their meat could be sold for shipment away from 
the immediate vicinity of the native settlement where it was produced. 
Several progressive white men obtained reindeer and bred up large herds, 
but they encountered so many difficulties in marketing the animals that 
they finally sold the stock to the Government, which turned the herds 
over to the natives. One herd of 1,500 animals was sold to the Canadian 
Government and was driven across country from the Kobuk region to the 
Mackenzie Delta, the drive requiring 4 years to complete. Reindeer meat 
from the Alaska herds has at times been available in markets in the States. 

Moose ocCur over much of the Territory, and many winter on the west 
side of Kenai Peninsula. Bulls attain a weight of more than 1,400 pounds 
and an antler spread of more than 6 feet. 

The beautiful white Dall mountain sheep occur on the Alaska Range, 
the Brooks Range, the Kenai Peninsula, and the St. Elias Range, with a 
few in the vicinity of the Upper Yukon. 

Mountain goats inhabit the coastal region from Southeastern Alaska to 
Kenai Peninsula. 

Big brown and grizzly bears together inhabit practically the entire 
Territory, with the exception of the islands of the southern portion of 
Southeastern Alaska and the Aleutian Chain beyond Unimak Pass. The 
best known are the big brown bears, which occur on the Kodiak-Afognak 
Island group, Unimak Island, the Alaska Peninsula, islands in the Prince 
William Sound region, and Chichagof, Baranof, and Admiralty Islands 
in Southeastern Alaska. Very similar forms occur on much of the 
adjacent mainland. These are the largest carnivorous animals. When sal- 
mon are in the streams, the bears feed largely on them. At other times they 
live on ground squirrels and other small animal life, berries, roots, and 
grasses. These bears do not generally seek trouble, but they have acquired 
a reputation for ferocity because men have occasionally been killed by 
them, either when a female bear thought the man meant harm to her 
young, or when man and bear met unexpectedly on a narrow trail. 



44 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

Polar bears inhabit the Arctic coast and the Arctic ice pack, as well as 
parts of Bering Sea, including St. Matthew Island, being found far from 
land. They feed on seals, fish, and any other flesh they can find. 

Black bears inhabit most of the Territory except the extreme north, 
the Alaska Peninsula, and the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak-Afognak Island 
group, and Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof Islands. They are classed 
as fur-bearing animals. 

Sitkan black-tailed deer, close relatives of the Columbian black-tail, in- 
habit most of Southeastern Alaska and have been introduced onto islands 
in the Prince William Sound region and on Kodiak. 

Musk oxen were native to Alaska but were exterminated early in the 
white man's occupancy of the Territory. Thirty-four individuals obtained 
in Greenland were placed on Nunivak Island in Bering Sea in 1930 and 
by 1942 the herd had increased to more than 90 animals. 

Remains of the American bison, commonly called buffalo, have been 
found in Alaska, but none are known to have existed there since the 
country came under the observation of white man, although there is a 
legend among the Indians that many of them were killed in a big snow. 
In 1928 a herd of 23 bison from the National Bison Range in Montana 
were introduced into the big Delta region southeast of Fairbanks. By 
1942 this herd had increased to nearly 300, and the animals had demon- 
strated their ability to stand the climatic conditions and thrive on the food. 
It probably did not require much adaptation on their part, for the cli- 
mate of the region in which they were placed is little if any more rigorous 
than the climate of the range inhabited by most of the northern bison, 
and the vegetation is more luxuriant than that on much of their native 
range. 

Wapiti, commonly called elk, were not native to Alaska, but a herd of 
eight Roosevelt elk from the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, liberated 
on Afognak Island in 1927 had increased by 1942 to about 200 animals. 

Birds 

Immense numbers of ducks, geese, and swans of several species breed 
abundantly throughout practically the entire Territory. The ducks include 
pintail, mallard, widgeon, green-winged teal, greater and lesser scaups, 
shovelers, canvasback, harlequin, oldsquaw; American, surf, and white- 
winged scoters; American and Barrows goldeneyes; Pacific, king, 
spectacled, and Steller's eiders. Among the geese are three subspecies of 
the Canada group, and lesser snow, white-fronted, emperor, and brant. 
Whistling swans also occur. 



ALASKA — WALKER 45 

These birds are hunted locally in season, and many of them migrate to 
the States. Many shore birds that occur in the States likewise have 
their summer homes and breeding ground in Alaska. One, the Pacific 
golden plover, nests in Alaska and winters from the Hawaiian Islands 
southward in the islands of Polynesia, making a nonstop flight between the 
North America mainland and the Hawaiian Islands. Various species 
of grouse and ptarmigan, the latter a grouse that turns white in winter, 
are found throughout much of the Territory, and in some sections add 
materially to the local food supply. The rugged seacoasts adjacent to 
waters teeming with a wide variety of fish and other aquatic life form 
an almost continuous rookery for numerous sea birds of many types, in- 
cluding auklets, murres, guillemots, puffins, cormorants, shearwaters, gulls, 
and kitti wakes. Among the birds of prey the bald eagle, emblem of the 
United States, is very abundant, particularly along the coast, where it feeds 
mainly on fish. Other birds of prey are a few golden eagles in the in- 
terior mountain ranges, gyr falcons, snowy owls, great gray owls, great 
horned owls, hawk owls, pygmy owls, and screech owls, goshawks, red- 
tailed hawks, duck hawks, rough-legged hawks, sparrow hawks, sharp- 
shinned hawks, pigeon hawks, and marsh hawks. 

Song and insectivorous birds of many different kinds breed in Alaska 
and migrate south, some as far as the States, where they serve a useful 
function as consumers of weed seeds and insects. 

The fisheries and wildlife resources of Alaska are of such vital im- 
portance to the residents and of such great value that they are now given 
careful and vigorous protection under laws enacted by Congress and ad- 
ministered through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the 
Alaska Game Commission. Local sentiment is so strong for the protection 
necessary to insure perpetuation of adequate supplies that vigorous en- 
forcement is carried out and heavy penalties are assessed for violations. 

TIMBER 

Practically all the commercial timber in the Territory occurs in the 
Tongass and the Chugach National Forests. The former comprises almost 
all of Southeastern Alaska, and the latter is in the Prince William Sound 
region. The total area of these forests is 20,880,000 acres, or slightly 
less than 6 percent of the total area of the Territory. Timber occurs else- 
where but not in such sizes as to be of great commercial importance, 
although it is extensively used locally for fuel, the building of log cabins, 
and in mines, and some of it is sawed into lumber. The dominant tree 
of the commercial timber type in the two forests is western hemlock, with 

7 



46 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

Sitka spruce a close second. Western red cedar and Alaska yellow cedar 
are restricted to small areas but are abundant locally and make choice 
woods for certain purposes. At present most of the commercial cutting 
of timber is consumed locally for building purposes, the construction of 
docks, making of salmon-packing cases, and other miscellaneous uses. 
During the present war, just as in the last war, certain types of Sitka 
spruce are used for airplane and other specialized construction. Careful 
studies made by the Forest Service indicate that several large pulp mills 
could operate continuously in the harvesting of the natural products of 
the forests. This is a future development that can be anticipated when 
economic conditions call for the utilization of these products. 

AGRICULTURAL POSSIBILITIES 

When lands close to the large consuming markets of the States are no 
longer able to supply the demand, Alaska will probably be able to enter an 
era of extensive agricultural development. However, until she can deliver 
her products to these markets at prices that will compete with those of 
crops raised in the States, the agricultural development will probably be 
limited to that sufficient for local consumption. Since people no longer 
plan to live almost entirely upon products of their own farms, it is 
scarcely likely that a large agricultural population will settle in Alaska 
with the idea of living solely off their own farms. If many widely 
scattered mines are developed, there will undoubtedly be an increase in 
agriculture in tributary regions, and perhaps farming and fur farming can 
be combined. 

It has been amply demonstrated on numerous occasions and in many 
different localities that Alaska can produce a considerable variety of 
agricultural crops. Those best adapted are hardy vegetables, grains, and 
some fruits, particularly strawberries. Both quality and yields are gen- 
erally good, and as further agricultural work is carried on, no doubt 
additional strains will be developed that will be even better adapted to 
the local conditions. Considerable progress has already been made along 
this line. The crops that have been demonstrated as successful producers 
in the Territory are potatoes, radishes, lettuce, mustard, cabbage, turnips, 
rutabagas, kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, peas, 
wheat, rye, oats, barley, and hay. Bush fruits, such as currants, rasp- 
berries, and gooseberries, do well. Livestock possibilities have been 
demonstrated. Dairy cattle will supply local needs; pigs, sheep, chickens, 
turkeys, and ducks have been raised. Sheep raising is one of the most 
promising potential industries for large areas of the Territory. 



ALASKA — WALKER 47 

The United States Government for several years maintained agricultural 
experiment stations at Fairbanks, Sitka, Kodiak, and Matanuska. At 
present the Territorial Government with aid from the Federal Govern- 
ment operates stations at Fairbanks and Matanuska. These have made 
studies to develop varieties of plants best adapted to the conditions in 
the locality, and when there is sufficient demand for such agricultural 
crops as can be raised in this region, there are promising opportunities 
for growing them. 

Alaska's fish, fur, and game crops will yield, or can be made to yield, 
financial returns per acre comparable to yields of agricultural crops from 
lands generally considered to be more favorably located, and there is an 
unlimited market for these Alaska products, too, for many of them can- 
not be produced in any other part of the world. 

If a skin from a fox that ranges over a given area of land will sell 
for as much as, or more than, the cultivated crops that would be raised 
on the same area, and the fox skin can be produced, harvested, and mar- 
keted at no greater cost than the other types of crops, it is as legitimate a 
crop as those that require cultivation. In many portions of the Territory 
the fish, fur bearers, game, and waterfowl are actually of far greater value 
than any other crops that might be produced on the lands. If there is a 
better demand for fur-bearing animals, game, and fish than there is for 
cultivated crops, the former should be raised in preference to the latter. 
It is therefore almost inevitable that the wildlife will for a long time re- 
main the dominant crop. 

MINERALS, OIL, WATER POWER 

The quest for gold brought Alaska to the attention of the people of 
the United States and the world at large and really led to the opening up 
of the Territory. There are, however, numerous other minerals, as well 
as coal and oil; these include copper, silver occurring with the copper, 
platinum, tin, lead, antimony, tungsten, palladium, zinc, quicksilver, iron, 
graphite, asbestos, chromite, manganese, mica, molybdenite, sulfur, barite, 
gypsum, limestone, and peat. Many of these minerals are known to exist 
in fair quantities. 

The gold deposits are of two types: the placer deposits, wherein the 
gold is scattered through sand or gravel, and the lodes, in which the gold 
is imbedded in more or less solid rock. 

The placer deposits were first worked by individuals or small groups, 
mainly along streams, where they "panned" or sluiced gold, and shafts 
were sunk to bedrock and the gold deposits garnered. As better facilities 



48 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

became available for the mining of the placer gold, powerful hydraulic 
streams were employed to wash down hillsides or to wash gold-bearing 
gravels in the stream beds. 

The older fields, where the remaining gold was too scant for profitable 
mining by the old methods, were later worked by dredges that handled 
large quantities of earth economically. They dug their own lakes in which 
to float, excavating ahead of them and depositing their refuse earth be- 
hind or to one side of them. The frozen earth was thawed by driving 
pipes to bedrock at intervals and pumping water into the ground. This 
method led to large operations in the interior and elsewhere. 

Large gold lode mines such as the Treadwell, Mexican, Ready Bullion, 
Alaska Gastineau, and Alaska Juneau were developed in the Juneau- 
region. The first three are now closed owing to exhaustion of the ore 
body. The lower levels of the Treadwell mine were 3,000 feet below 
sea level. Numerous other gold lode mines were developed at various 
localities in the Territory. 

The Kennecott copper mine in the Copper River drainage basin and 
the Latouche copper mine on Latouche Island in Prince William Sound 
were very important producers for many years until the ore bodies were 
worked out. The mining of the other minerals has been carried on to a 
greater or lesser degree throughout the Territory wherever deposits have 
been found, so that in the aggregate there are many small mines and 
prospects. Some have been worked out, and others have been closed 
down from time to time because of economic conditions. 

The picturesque prospector, so prominent in the literature and lore of 
the Territory, still exists in practically all regions and from time to time 
discovers new mineral deposits. If a find appears to be exceptionally 
promising or rich, it frequently serves as a stimulus to induce more active 
prospecting in adjacent and more distant portions of the Territory, so that 
there is a more or less recurrent series of waves of prospecting and find- 
ing of minerals. To predict how many more important deposits will be 
found, of course, would be pure conjecture. 

Bituminous, anthracite, and lignite coals all occur, some in thick veins 
of considerable extent. Mines have been opened to supply the local 
needs. 

Marble that compares favorably with the world's best has been ex- 
tensively quarried and widely exported. Petroleum seepages are known 
to occur in widely scattered areas and perhaps indicate deposits that may 
eventually be utilized. A few small wells were operated near Katalla 
from 1913 to 1933. At places in the Arctic there are on the surface of the 
ground pools of viscous oil or tar similar to the tar pools that at one 



ALASKA — WALKER 49 

time existed near Los Angeles, in which the animal life of ancient times 
was mired and preserved. Alaska animals also sometimes die in these 
pools. 

Mineral and hot springs, some of them apparently of therapeutic value, 
occur at various places in the Territory. The natives utilized many of 
these long before the white man came to Alaska. 

In practically all the mountainous region water power can readily be 
developed, for there is probably sufficient precipitation even in the driest 
portion of the mountains, and reservoir sites are plentiful. In South- 
eastern Alaska and in the Prince William Sound region, extensive studies 
have been carried on to ascertain the water power that might be developed 
for use in mine mills and in paper-pulp mills for the manufacture of 
paper from the timber of the surrounding regions. Some of the mines 
have developed water power, and the coastal towns of Ketchikan, Juneau, 
and adjacent small communities have adequate electric power at rates 
that compare favorably with the lowest of those available in the States. 

DEVELOPMENT 
GOVERNMENT 

Like other territorial possessions of the United States, Alaska has a 
type of government that is partially local and partially Federal, and is 
definitely different from the government of the States. The Governor is 
appointed by the President with the approval of the Senate and functions 
through the Department of the Interior of the Federal Government. He 
is thus a Federal officer and largely represents the Department of the 
Interior. Federal agencies having work in Alaska, such as the Alaska 
Railroad, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Geological Survey, 
Office of Education, and others, generally maintain headquarters at 
Juneau, the capital of the Territory, and some have main offices or sub- 
offices elsewhere in the Territory. Alaska elects a delegate to the United 
States Congress every 2 years ; he represents the Territory, but has no vote. 

The Territorial Legislature comprises a Senate and a House of Repre- 
sentatives. The Senate consists of 8 members — 2 Senators elected every 
4 years by the people from each of the 4 Judicial Divisions of the Terri- 
tory. The House of Representatives consists of 16 members — 4 Repre- 
sentatives elected every 2 years by the people from each of the 4 Judicial 
Divisions. The authority of the Legislature is limited, but it constitutes 
a preliminary step toward self-government. Offices and agencies that 
have been authorized by the Territorial Legislature and for which it levies 
taxes and appropriates maintenance funds are: Auditor, Treasurer, At- 



50 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

torney General, Highway Engineer and Superintendent of Public Works, 
Departments of Education, Mines, Labor, Health, Public Welfare, the 
University of Alaska, and various boards and commissions. 

The Courts are all Federal, except for the Municipal Courts main- 
tained by the incorporated towns. The Territory is divided into four 
Judicial Divisions. Southeastern Alaska as far west as Yakutat constitutes 
the First Judicial Division; the southern coast region from Yakutat 
westward to the end of the Aleutian Islands and roughly northward to 
the summit of the Alaska Range, and the Bristol Bay region, the Third 
Judicial Division; the interior and eastern Arctic region, the Fourth 
Judicial Division; and the remaining portion, consisting of the Bering 
Sea coastal region north of Bristol Bay and the western Arctic coast, the 
Second Judicial Division. Headquarters of these Courts are, respectively, 
at Juneau, Valdez, Fairbanks, and Nome, although as the areas of juris- 
diction are very extensive, the Court frequently, and in some cases regu- 
larly, sits at other places. 

In addition, in most communities there are United States Commissioners, 
whose functions are roughly similar to those of Justices of the Peace. 
United States Marshals and their deputies function in direct connection 
with the Courts and the United States Commissioners. There are no 
Territorial Courts. 

EDUCATION AND SOCIAL LIFE 

Churches of many denominations are scattered throughout the Terri- 
tory. Wherever the Russian influence was strong, the principal church of 
the natives is the Russian Greek Catholic Church. Thriving missions, 
schools, and hospitals exist for the natives, or natives and whites. The 
two general school systems in the Territory are the native schools, op- 
erated by the Federal Government through the United States Indian Ser- 
vice, and the Territorial schools, operated by the Territorial Government 
in conjunction with the incorporated towns. The Territorial school sys- 
tem compares favorably with that of the States and has the customary 
8-year grade schools and 4-year high schools. The native schools gen- 
erally go only to the eighth grade. The Territory also maintains the 
University of Alaska at Fairbanks, which is striving to train students along 
lines that will be most helpful to future citizens of the Territory, although 
a general liberal education course is also included. 

Many communities have hospitals, operated by the Catholic Church, 
the Episcopal Church, the United States Public Health Service, or by 
private enterprise. 



ALASKA — WALKER 51 

Community spirit and patriotism are exceptionally high in Alaska. 
The people provide their own entertainment, care for their unfortunates, 
and want neither charity nor paternalism. 

TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATION 

Alaska is no longer the remote, inaccessible place it was a genera- 
tion ago. In the early days traffic to and from the Territory was by 
sailing vessels, from ports of the west coast of California, Oregon, 
Washington, and British Columbia. Steamers later came into common 
use, although sailing vessels still continued to be used to some extent. 
With the development of the internal combustion engine, "gas boats" 
became common and greatly increased transportation facilities along the 
coast and on the streams. The development of the Diesel engine provided 
somewhat more reliable and larger power plants for larger and sturdier 
vessels, and of course steamers continued to ply the coastal waters and 
a few still traverse the Yukon system. 

Travel to the Territory during recent years has been by passenger 
steamer or small boats usually departing from Seattle, Washington, or 
Vancouver, British Columbia, or other ports along this coast. San Fran- 
cisco is still a point of departure for some sailings. 

The White Pass and Yukon Railroad, the first to provide local trans- 
portation, extends from Skagway on the coast to Whitehorse, Yukon Ter- 
ritory, on the Yukon drainage, a distance of 111 miles. The Alaska 
Railroad has about 500 miles of track from its three salt-water termini, 
Whittier, Seward, and Anchorage, on the southern coast, to Fairbanks 
in the interior. The Copper River and Northwestern Railroad formerly 
operated from Cordova to the Kennecott copper mine. 

Prior to the building of the new highway to Alaska, the road system 
consisted of the 372-mile Richardson Highway from Valdez on the 
coast to Fairbanks; an extension of 165 miles from Fairbanks to Circle; 
and various short lengths of road from settlements to local points of 
interest. 

Away from these few roads in the interior, the transportation has been 
almost entirely by dog teams in winter and by small river boats in sum- 
mer, except for the few river steamers that have plied between the prin- 
cipal points on the Yukon drainage system. Because of the slowness of 
these means of transportation, it was inevitable that the airplane would 
find strong favor in the region, for in a few hours at most, a plane can 
make trips that would take weeks or even months by dog team or small 
boat. Fortunately, the interior climate is well adapted to the general use 



52 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

of planes, and the development of aviation in Alaska therefore kept 
pace with development in the States and elsewhere; indeed, the airplane 
is relied on by Alaskans to a far greater extent than in the States. Air 
transportation between Alaska and the States has been an actuality for 
some time, and now, with the great development in air fields and avia- 
tion in general, even the most remote portion of Alaska is only a few 
hours from the States. 

For a long time the need for a highway to connect Alaska with the 
highway and railroad systems of the United States and Canada has been 
recognized. Various routes were discussed, but no real progress was made 
toward the selection of a route or the construction of a road until the 
strategic importance of Alaska came to the front so forcibly that it seemed 
imperative to build a roadway that would permit the transportation of 
defense materials to the Territory if naval warfare should interfere with 
shipping along the southern coast. This situation brought about the 
order for the construction of the highway to Alaska which connects at 
Dawson Creek in east-central British Columbia, Canada, with the railway 
and highway facilities of Canada and the States, and extends northward 
and westward to connect with the Alaskan highways and railways. The 
route lies east of the exceedingly rugged coastal mountains, thereby obvi- 
ating many construction problems. The building of the road along this 
route proceeded so rapidly that we had a roadway through to Alaska 
almost before the people of the United States realized it, and the work 
will go down in history as a remarkable feat of engineering and organiza- 
tion. Of course, the road is not a boulevard, but it serves the military 
needs and can be developed into an entirely satisfactory highway. After 
the war it will undoubtedly be a highly popular drive as by this route, with 
its connecting roads, it will be possible to go from the States through 
western Canada and the Klondike region to Fairbanks, and there con- 
nect with the Alaska Railroad, or to go to the coast by way of the 
Richardson Highway ending at Valdez. Such a trip could be cut short 
by connecting with the railway for Skagway, or by using the highway to 
Haines on the coast. 

The remoteness of Alaska and the slow transportation that formerly 
existed, particularly away from the coast, caused the radio to become 
very popular. As a result, Alaskans have developed utilization of the 
radio much as they did the airplane, so that now there is scarcely a com- 
munity of any size that does not have its radio receiving station. There 
are also many transmitting stations operated by the United States Signal 
Corps, the Alaska Territorial Government, canneries, mines, the larger 
commercial concerns, and private individuals. Alaska is therefore now 



ALASKA — WALKER 53 

almost as well provided with transportation and communication facilities 
as many regions in the States. 

CONCLUDING REMARKS 

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Alaska is not a forbidding, in- 
hospitable region. It has a wide diversity of topography and climate, 
and much of the Territory is unsurpassed in beauty of scenery and as a 
recreational area. Newcomers rarely like Alaska at first, but if they 
stay as long as a year, they almost invariably become enthusiastic about 
the country and have no desire to leave. It is difficult to define Alaska's 
charm but one potent factor in its appeal is the fact that within a few 
minutes' walk from the center of the largest town, one can be on the 
public domain, free to wander at will without fear of trespassing and 
with very few restrictions. This sense of untrammeled freedom, coupled 
with the unsurpassed scenery of many portions of the Territory, the 
great friendliness of the people, and the general atmosphere of genuine- 
ness, form the basis for a fascination that few can resist when they have 
been there long enough to appreciate these attributes of the country. 

The white population of Alaska is decidedly cosmopolitan. Every 
region of the United States is represented, and many foreign countries. 
Among those of foreign birth, Norwegians, Swedes, and Finns are in 
the majority. The last census, begun September 2, 1939, recorded a total 
population of 72,524, of which 39,170 were whites and 32,458 natives, 
the remainder of other races. Among the whites, 8,786 were foreign- 
born. There were 5,559 Aleuts, 15,576 Eskimos, and 11,283 Indians 
of the southeastern and interior regions. Illiteracy is low among whites 
in Alaska, and many of the natives can read and write, some having 
attended college. 

In spite of the fact that the population is very sparse and that the 
Territory is still considered a frontier, modern conveniences are enjoyed 
in a surprisingly large proportion of the homes, for the Alaska population 
includes many people who have enjoyed all the comforts and con- 
veniences of the States and who live in Alaska by choice. Among these 
are mining engineers and other professional men, including many doctors. 

In the present stage of development of the Territory, extremes of 
poverty and opulence are lacking. The average standard of living of 
Alaskans is higher than that of the average resident of the States, 
because the sparse population is well within that which can be sup- 
ported by the natural resources, and the keen, ruthless competition of 
thickly populated regions is almost wholly absent in the Territory. Any- 
one who is willing to work can ordinarily find ways to occupy himself 
profitably. 



54 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

In Alaska, people are accepted for what they are, not for what their 
ancestors or connections may be. This, together with the pioneering spirit 
of the country, is responsible for the sturdy character of the people. 
Alaskan conditions are a rather effective sorting device. People of all 
types appear in the Territory, but the weaklings, parasites, and misfits 
leave, so that those who stay show a high average of character and 
stamina. From such stock, a new generation of native-born Alaskans 
is just coming into its majority, who bid fair to be worthy successors 
to their good ancestors. 

A great deal has been written and said regarding the future of Alaska, 
particularly with relation to an increase in the population, which in turn 
would call for the exploitation of minerals, oils, and timber, and the 
cultivation of lands. Even though this never takes place on the scale 
that some advocate, Alaska can nevertheless continue to prosper through 
development in a field in which no other part of the world is a close 
competitor. Lands that cannot produce crops, minerals, oil, or timber, 
can, if properly administered, yield annual crops of furs and game, and 
afford recreation unsurpassed in any other region, and equalled in only 
a few. 

Alaska is a keystone in strategy relating to the protection of the 
Americas, for it is the logical point for an enemy to attack in order to 
obtain a base for further aggression in North America. Furthermore, 
it is a treasure house of food fish, minerals, timber, fur-bearing and game 
animals, and other natural resources much needed by the Japanese. Also an 
obvious base for our own offensive operations, Alaska is truly America's 
continental frontier outpost. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Nearly all branches of the United States Government that have had to do 
with Alaska have issued special reports on their lines of work or have made refer- 
ences to the Alaska work in their annual reports. Important contributions of this 
type of material have been issued by the former Biological Survey of the Depart- 
ment of Agriculture; the former Bureau of Fisheries of the Department of Com- 
merce; the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Geological 
Survey, the Bureau of Education, the Office of Indian Affairs, the Division of 
Territories and Island Possessions, and the Alaska Railroad, all of the Depart- 
ment of the Interior; the Office of Experiment Stations and the Forest Service of 
the Department of Agriculture; the Weather Bureau of the Department of Com- 
merce; the Bureau of Customs of the Treasury Department; and Congressional 
Reports. Lists of Government publications on Alaska that are available for dis- 
tribution can usually be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents of the 
Government Printing Office, or from the respective agencies. 



ALASKA — WALKER 55 

Alaska Planning Council. 

1941. General information regarding Alaska. Juneau. (Contains a large 

amount of valuable current information regarding the Territory. The 
1941 edition is exhausted, but others will probably be issued, and 
previous issues may be available in libraries.) 

Andrews, C. L. 

1922. The story of Sitka, the historic outpost of the northwest coast. Low- 
man & Hanford Co., Seattle. (A brief account of the settlement and 
life of Sitka.) 
Baker, Marcus. 

1906. Geographic dictionary of Alaska. U. S. Geol. Surv., Bull. 299. (A dic- 
tionary of geographical names with considerable supplementary infor- 
mation of a historical character.) 
Barbeau, Marius. 

1940. The modern growth of the totem pole on the northwest coast. Ann. 
Rep. Smithsonian Inst, for 1939, pp. 491-498. 
Beach, Rex. 

1906. The spoilers. Harper & Brothers, New York and London. (A novel 

of the gold-rush days at Nome.) 
1909. The silver horde. Harper & Brothers, New York and London. (An 
excellent picture of the early days of the salmon-fishing industry in 
the Bristol Bay region. The picture is still accurate as to many 
of the conditions, although man's activities in the region are some- 
what modified.) 
1913. The iron trail. Harper & Brothers, New York and London. (A novel 
built around the construction of the Copper River and Northwestern 
Railroad and the Controller Bay and eastern Prince William Sound 
region. ) 
Birke-Smith, K., and De Laguna, Frederica. 

1938. The Eyak Indians of the Copper River Delta, Alaska. Det. Kgl. Danske 
Vidensk. Selsk. Copenhagen. 
Brower, Charles D. 

1942. Fifty years below zero. Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc., New York. (A 

fascinating account of the everyday incidents and major events during 
50 years on the Arctic coast of Alaska.) 
Colby, Merle. 

1943. A guide to Alaska, last American frontier. Amer. Guide Ser., Federal 

Writers' Project. Macmillan Co. 
Collins, Henry B., Jr. 

1934. Archeology of the Bering Sea region. Ann. Rep. Smithsonian Inst, for 

1933, pp. 453-468. 
1937. Archeology of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. Smithsonian Misc. Coll., 

vol. 96, No. 1, 431 pp., 84 pis. 
1940. Outline of Eskimo prehistory. Smithsonian Misc. Coll., vol. 100, pp. 

533-592, pis. 11-16. 

CORSER, H. P. 

No date. Totem lore and the land of the totem. Publ. by the Nugget Shop, 
Juneau, Alaska. 



56 WAR BACKGROUND STUDIES, NO. 13 

Dall, William H. 

1870. Alaska and its resources. Lee and Shepard. Boston. 
Dall, William., et al. 

1910. History, geography, resources. Harriman Alaska Expedition, Rep., vol. 2. 
Davis, Mary Lee. 

1930. Uncle Sam's attic, the intimate story of Alaska. W. A. Wilde Com- 
pany, Boston. (A good over-all picture of Alaska by an author who 
had traveled widely in the Territory.) 
De Laguna, Frederica. 

1934. Archeology of Cook Inlet. Univ. Pennsylvania Press. 
Dimond, Anthony J. 

1941. The strategic value of Alaska. Military Eng., Jan.-Feb. 
Dufresne, Frank. 

1942. Mammals and birds of Alaska. U. S. Dep. Int., Fish and Wildlife 

Serv., Circ. 3. 
Frick, Childs. 

1930. Alaska's frozen fauna. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., Nat. Hist., vol. 30, No. 1, 

pp. 71-80, Jan.-Feb. 
Geist, Otto W., and Rainey, F. G. 

1936. Archeological excavations at Kukulik, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. 

Misc. Publ. Univ. Alaska, vol. 2. 
Hadwen, Seymour, and Palmer, Lawrence J. 

1922. Reindeer in Alaska. U. S. Dep. Agr. Bull. 1089. 
Hrdlicka, Ales. 

1930. Anthropological survey in Alaska. 46th Ann. Rep. Bur. Amer. Ethnol., 
pp. 19-374. 

1937. Archeological explorations on Kodiak and the Aleutian Islands. Expl. 

and Field-work Smithsonian Inst, for 1936, pp. 57-62. 
James, James Alton. 

1942. The first scientific exploration of Russian America and the purchase 
of Alaska. Northwestern Univ. Studies in the Social Sciences, No. 4. 
Jenness, Diamond. 

1941. Prehistoric culture waves from Asia to America. Ann. Rep. Smithsonian 
Inst, for 1940, pp. 383-396. 
Jones, E. Lester. 

1918. Safeguard the gateways of Alaska; her waterways. U. S. Dep. Comm., 
U. S. Coast and Geod. Surv., Spec. Publ. No. 50, 41 pp., illus. 
National Association of Audubon Societies. 

1914. Alaskan bird-life. New York. 
Nelson, Edward William. 

1899. The Eskimo about Bering Strait. 18th Ann. Rep. Bur. Amer. Ethnol., 
pt. 1, pp. 3-518. 
Palmer, Lawrence J. 

1926. Progress of reindeer grazing investigations in Alaska. U. S. Dep. Agr. 
Bull. 1423. 
Rainey, F. G. 

1941. The Ipiutak culture at Point Hope, Alaska. Amer. Anthrop., vol. 43, 
No. 3, pt. 1, pp. 364-375. 



ALASKA — WALKER 57 

Ray, Lt. P. H. 

1885. Report of the International Polar Expedition to Point Barrow, Alaska 
[in response to the resolution of the House of Representatives of 
Dec. 11, 1884]. 
Richardson, Harold W. 

1942, 1943. Alcan — America's glory road. Eng. News Rec, Dec. 17 and 31, 
1942, Jan. 14, 1943. 
Service, Robert W. 

1909. Ballads of a Cheechako. Barse and Hopkins, New York. (Poems of 
the Klondike days and region.) 
Simpson, George Gaylord. 

1900. Mammals and land bridges. Journ. Washington Acad. Sci., vol. 30, 
No. 4, pp. 137-163, Apr. 15. 
Smith, Philip S. 

1934. Geographic and geologic evidence relating to the connection of Siberia 
and northwestern Alaska. Proc. 5th Sci. Congr., Canada, 1933, vol. 1, 
pp. 753-758. Univ. Toronto Press. 
Stejneger, Leonhard. 

1936. Georg Wilhelm Steller, the pioneer of Alaskan natural history. Harvard 
Univ. Press, Cambridge. (A detailed biography of the naturalist, 
Steller, who accompanied the Bering voyage of discovery to Alaska. 
The author has brought together a large mass of facts relating to 
plans for exploration that resulted in the discovery of Alaska and 
which are not generally known and are practically unobtainable 
elsewhere.) 
Swanton, John R. 

1908. Social conditions, beliefs, and linguistic relationship of the Tlingit 
Indians. 26th Ann. Rep. Bur. Amer. Ethnol., pp. 391-485. 
United States Department of Agriculture. 

1941. Climate and man. Yearbook. 
United States Department of the Interior. 

1939. Alaska, information relative to the disposal and leasing of public 

lands in Alaska. Gen. Land Off., Information Bull., 1939 ser., No. 2. 

1940. The problem of Alaskan development. Apr. 

1942. Circular of information regarding the Alaska Railroad. Office of the 

Secretary. 
No date. The Alaska Railroad (booklet). 
United States National Resources Committee. 

1938. Alaska, its resources and development. 75th Congr., 3d Sess., House 
Doc. 485. 

WlCKERSHAM, JAMES. 

1927. A bibliography of Alaskan literature. 1724-1924. Misc. Publ. Alaska 
Agr. Coll. and School of Mines. (The most complete bibliography 
that has been issued to date of writings regarding Alaska.) 



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